Uber considering GE CEO Jeff Immelt for top role

Business Leaders Dow Jones Newswires

(REUTERS)

Uber Technologies is considering General Electric Chief Executive Jeff Immelt among a handful of candidates for its top position, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

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The ride-hailing company's five-member search committee has had active discussions with Mr. Immelt, this person said. Mr. Immelt is relinquishing his role as GE's leader at the end of the month and will remain chairman through year-end. 

Representatives for GE and Uber declined to comment. 

Mr. Immelt is among the most-seasoned executives that Uber has approached in the past five weeks since investors orchestrated a dramatic revolt to push out co-founder Travis Kalanick following a series of scandals at the eight-year-old company. Mr. Kalanick remains on the board and is a member of the search committee. 

The hurried search process, which Uber hopes to wrap up by Labor Day, has whittled the candidates down to just a few names, people familiar with the matter said, including Meg Whitman, the CEO and chairman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. 

On Thursday night, Ms. Whitman took her name out of the running, tweeting that she won't be the next CEO at Uber. "Normally I do not comment on rumors, but the speculation about my future and Uber has become a distraction," she wrote. "So let me make this as clear as I can. I am fully committed to HPE and plan to remain the company's CEO...Uber's CEO will not be Meg Whitman." 

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It isn't clear the degree to which Mr. Immelt is interested in the embattled company's top job, which would be a change for the veteran executive who runs a business that dwarfs Uber by revenue. It is possible Mr. Immelt or the other candidates could withdraw their names from consideration, these people said. Bloomberg News earlier reported the executive names as candidates. 

Uber's CEO spot is potentially tantalizing for executives seeking a role in remaking a global powerhouse and a once-in-a-lifetime payout if Uber were to seek an IPO. But the company is grappling with the fallout from a former software engineer's allegations it tolerated sexism and sexual harassment, and it is still seeking a new independent board chairman, as well as chiefs of operations, finance and marketing, among other top positions. 

During his 16-year tenure at GE, Mr. Immelt significantly reshaped the industrial giant. He sold off many divisions -- including plastics, financial services and virtually all of its consumer-facing products -- steering it toward its industrial operations of power turbines, jet engines and medical equipment. 

Mr. Immelt's tenure was marred by GE's stock underperforming both peers and the broader market. So far this year, the stock is down nearly 20%. 

But at 61 years old, the globe-trotting salesman isn't expected to sit still in retirement. He spent his entire career with GE, but some observers expect him to remain active in the business and possibly political world. 

Uber's search committee consists of five board members, including Mr. Kalanick; Nestlé SA executive Wan Ling Martello; venture capitalist Matt Cohler; media magnate Arianna Huffington and private-equity partner David Trujillo. 

San Francisco-based Uber was valued at nearly $70 billion following a fundraising round about a year ago, making it the most world's most valuable private company, and has raised about $15 billion in venture and debt financing. 

Thomas Gryta contributed to this article. 

Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com