Obama Picks GE CEO Immelt to Lead New White House Economic Panel


General Electric

(GE) CEO Jeff Immelt will become the head of a new presidential panel called the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. It replaces to a large extent the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which was chaired by former Federal Reserve Chief Paul Volcker. Volcker was essential in crafting the new financial and bank rules that were passed by Congress. He did not have the deep contacts with business that might have served as a bridge between the private and public sectors as each struggled to shrug off the impact of the recession.

Media reports say that President Obama will officially name Immelt when he visits a GE facility in upstate New York.

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"The president and I are committed to a candid and full dialogue among business, labor and government to help ensure that the United States has the most competitive and innovative economy in the world," Immelt told the Washington Post. He added, "My hope is that the council will be a sounding board for ideas and a catalyst for action on jobs and competitiveness."

But is Immelt the right person for the job? Or would he be better off focusing on GE, a company that has faltered under his leadership? GE may be a large conglomerate with businesses that operate around the globe, and this may give Immelt a special perspective. But the company is hardly a shining example of the best of American business. Its financial services division has been troubled and it has failed in its attempt to turnaround its entertainment division NBCU, the controlling interest of which was recently sold to Comcast (CMCSA).

GE's shares traded at $40 when Immelt took the job as CEO. The stock price is now about $18. GE has sharply underperformed the DJIA over that period. The company continues to have substantial problems. Perhaps Immelt would be better off spending full time on his day job.

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