Wall Street

The 'fantastic' and 'lucrative' Larry Culp: What the incoming CEO brings to troubled GE

Key Points
  • Culp will replace John Flannery as GE CEO.
  • The former Danaher chief has "already completed a lucrative & reputable career," Cowen analyst Gautam Khanna says.
  • Danaher's market capitalization grew to $50 billion from $9.7 billion under the 14 years of Culp's leadership.
General Electric fires John Flannery as CEO
General Electric fires John Flannery as CEO

Larry Culp brings more than a decade of remarkable success as the CEO of Danaher to his new role at General Electric, giving investors new hope for the embattled industrial conglomerate.

Danaher now holds its place as one of the world's largest science and technology conglomerates, after Culp more than quintupled the company's market value and revenues while CEO.

"Investors will view the change favorably given Culp's successful CEO tenure at Danaher, his GE 'outsider' status, and the fact that Culp doesn't 'need' the position, having already completed a lucrative & reputable career," Cowen analyst Gautam Khanna said in a note.

He comes to GE at a desperate time. Ousted CEO John Flannery was promising shareholders he would trim GE down to three core businesses, but the company was not turning around as quickly as its board of directors had hoped. GE's announcement Monday that Culp will replace Flannery was a surprise move. Shares of GE closed Monday trading 7.1 percent higher at $12.09 a share, after jumping as high as $13.07 a share.

"Culp has a great record. He was fantastic at Danaher. So I think the company is in better hands," said , host of CNBC's "Mad Money."

Three experts on GE's future after firing CEO John Flannery
Three experts on GE's future after firing CEO John Flannery

Culp was named to the GE board in April. The GE board had been having "some back-channel conversations over the last several weeks about whether he would want and whether he would take" the CEO job, CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

Cramer also said that major GE shareholder and activist investor Nelson Peltz said the CEO change was a "super" move. As of June 30, Peltz's firm Trian Fund Management holds about 70.8 million shares of GE.

When Culp came in as Danaher's president and CEO in 2000, the company was an industrial manufacturer worth about $9.7 billion. The company's market capitalization grew to $50 billion under the 14 years of Culp's leadership.

He became known for his shrewd eye for acquisitions, deploying about $25 billion in capital as he steadily expanded Danaher into health-care and environmental businesses. In 2014, Harvard Business Review named Culp as one of the top 50 CEOs in the world.

Shares of Danaher rose over 400% during Larry Culp's time as CEO

Source: FactSet

Culp also grew Danaher revenues steadily, with the peak of the financial crisis in 2009 marking its only negative year of sales growth while he was in charge.

He is telling GE staff that "everything is on the table" to try to revive the fallen industrial giant, according to Cramer.

Flannery had been selling off $20 billion worth of GE assets in a push to make the company leaner, but his promised turnaround plan had yet to bear fruit. Cramer said he felt bad for Flannery, as "he was trying to deal with the hand that Jeff Immelt left him." Immelt's time leading the company was reportedly criticized by over a dozen insiders for unrealistic financial goals, poorly timed acquisitions and even mismanagement of the company's cash.

"The hand was too hard," Cramer said.

"When John Flannery was appointed CEO in August 2017, he faced a company in a very difficult balance sheet position, and I am grateful for his efforts in outlining a new direction for GE. Larry Culp had a great run at Danaher, where he transformed the company over some 14 years of sustained success. I wish him, and all of GE's dedicated people, all the best," former GE CEO Jack Welch said in a statement to CNBC.

Culp, 55, also teaches at Harvard Business School.

'Frustrated' GE board names Larry Culp CEO
'Frustrated' GE board names Larry Culp CEO