Former GE Chairman & CEO Jeff Immelt Appointed Chairman Athenahealth

By Barbara Wenger

Jeff Immelt, who unceremoniously left financially troubled GE after 16 years at the helm, was appointed as chairman of the board of athenahealth, Inc.

Immelt will make a financial investment in athenahealth, and plans to purchase approximately $1 million of athenahealth common stock in the open market.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff as the new independent chairman of the athenahealth board,” said Dev Ittycheria, chair of the board’s nominating and corporate governance committee, in a statemenmt. “Having considered a number of highly qualified candidates, the board determined that Jeff’s deep expertise and broad relationships in the healthcare industry, combined with his drive for industry transformation through innovation, ideally position him to be a great partner to the board and management team as we work to profitably grow and scale the company and drive value creation.”

Immelt may also be a good fit given athenahealth is facing pressure from an activist investor; something he had to deal with at GE with Trian Fund Management.

Athenahealth is dealing with investor powerhouse Elliott Management, “a feared Wall Street hedge fund that acquired a 9 percent stake in athenahealth, began pushing for changes last year, saying the company’s stock was undervalued,” according to the Boston Globe.

Of his athenahealth appointment, Immelt said in a statement that: “I have long been inspired by founder-led companies and their ability to outperform and out-innovate peers. In this regard, I have great respect for all that athenahealth has accomplished and its passionate culture, which has been such an important contributor to the company’s success.”

Immelt held several global leadership positions since joining GE in 1982, including roles in GE’s Plastics, Appliances and president and CEO of GE Healthcare. He was selected by the GE Board in 2000, to succeed the legendary Jack Welch. During his tenure, he transformed GE into a simpler, stronger, more focused digital industrial company. He was willing to disrupt and reshape the company’s portfolio, during the last decade, with the sale of GE Capital assets, the acquisition of platforms in Life Sciences and Renewables, adding global energy leader Alstrom, the combination of GE Oil & Gas with Baker Hughes, and the divestitures of legacy businesses like GE Appliances, NBC Universal and Plastics.

He has been named one of the “World’s Best CEOs” three times by Barron’s. He has received fifteen honorary degrees and numerous awards for business leadership. Under the Obama administration, he chaired the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.