Cincinnati-born Immelt is a second-generation GE employee: His father spent nearly four decades working at GE Aircraft Engines. After attending Dartmouth (he studied applied math and was an offensive tackle on the football team) and a two-year stint at Proctor & Gamble (where he shared an office with future Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer), Immelt headed off to Harvard Business School. With his freshly minted diploma in hand, he joined GE's marketing department in 1982, moving to Dallas a year later to serve as district sales manager for GE Plastics. By 1989, Immelt was a GE officer—a title reserved for roughly 200 of company's most senior execs—and following a brief stint at GE Appliances, he moved over to GE Plastics as general manager in 1992. In 1997, he was tapped by then-CEO Jack Welch to head up GE Medical Systems. Four years later, at the tender age of 45, he prevailed in the hotly-contested race to succeed legendary GE CEO Jack Welch, moving into the CEO suite just four days before Sept. 11.
Immelt took the reigns at GE during a period of enormous uncertainty: The post-Sept. 11th economic downturn deeply impacted many of G.E.'s core businesses such as jet engines and aircraft leasing, and the company was forced to write off billions as its shares tumbled. Immelt has since proven himself to be a very different leader than Welch: He's quiet and unassuming unlike his hard-charging mentor, "Neutron Jack." But emerging from Welch's shadow hasn't been an easy task for Immelt, and the challenge of reinvigorating the lumbering conglomerate has been equally tricky. Since taking over, Immelt has invested in technology and research, reduced the company's reliance on low-return businesses (G.E. spun off Genworth Financial), split up GE Capital into four businesses, adopted a more environmentally-friendly approach to business, and made big bets on biotech and media. But with so much terrain to watch over—Immelt presides over a veritable nation-state of a corporation with 320,000 employees—there's always something that's bound to need fixing and much to the disappointment of shareholders, Immelt's yet to work the same magic with GE's stock that Jack Welch so famously and consistently was able to, leading some to suggest that the company be broken up into several smaller pieces. The announcement of disappointing earnings in early 2008 led to a plunge in GE's stock and Immelt has since implemented a round of aggressive cost cuts.
Immelt earned $17.9 million in 2006, including $3.3 million in salary, a $5 million bonus, and $9.6 million in stock options.
On the job
Immelt's closest senior execs include including NBC chief Jeff Zucker; general counsel Brackett Denniston; GE real estate CEO Ron Pressman; David Nissen, who heads up GE Money; energy boss John Krenicki; Scott Donnelly, the head of GE Aviation; marketing chief Beth Comstock; James Campbell, who oversees the consumer and industrial divisions; and GE Transportation chief John Dineen.
Immelt is on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, along with Richard Fuld, Lloyd Blankfein, Harvey Weinstein, and Paul Tudor Jones, among others. He's also on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, along with Jerry Speyer, Indra Nooyi, and Lee Bollinger, as well as Catalyst, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of women in business.
Immelt and his wife, Andrea, have a daughter, Sarah, and live in New Caanan, Conn. They also have a vacation house in Massachusetts.