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Barry Ritholtz

Judging GE's Jeff Immelt Versus Jack Welch

The two chief executives of General Electric Co. were dealt very different hands.
They seemed happy at the time.

They seemed happy at the time.

Photographer: James Leynse/Corbis/Getty Images

With the news that Jeff Immelt is stepping down as chief executive officer of General Electric Co., it seems worthwhile to take an early measure of his legacy. After 16 years at the helm, with the stock price essentially unchanged since he took over, the announcement wasn't all that much of a surprise. Still, the standard appraisal of his tenure is subject to many of the classic errors that afflict so many investors.

As CEO, Immelt followed the legendary Jack Welch. Depending upon the version you prefer, Welch was either a management genius, very lucky, or a cheater who cooked the books. Since Immelt is so often compared to his predecessor, let's consider the foundation on which the Welch edifice is built: