In Business This Week: HEADLINER: JAMES McNERNEY
A RISING GE STAR GAINS WATTAGE
You're Jack Welch, and you're not leaving the corner office at General Electric until 2000, damn it. On the other hand, there was that nasty bypass surgery last spring, and succession speculation is rampant.
What to do? Nothing, certainly, to dampen the rumors. Instead, on Oct. 23, GE announced that James McNerney Jr., a rising star dispatched in 1992 to Hong Kong to jump- start GE's presence in Asia, would return to head the $3 billion lighting unit. He'll replace John Opie, 57, who will become vice-chairman and a member of the three-person executive office.
It's a high-profile assignment for McNerney, placing him squarely in the top ranks of younger execs favored to succeed Welch, 59. Among his chief rivals: Robert Nardelli, head of GE's Power Systems unit, and Plastics chief Gary Rogers. McNerney, 46, is a Harvard MBA who has run three smaller GE businesses and done time as a senior executive at GE Capital Services. At Lighting, he will oversee a revamped business with an overhauled product line that has seen tremendous growth overseas.EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDS By Tim Smart