GE Hires Maersk CFO Carolina Dybeck Happe as New CFO--2nd Update
By Thomas Gryta
General Electric Co. said it hired an executive at A.P.
Moeller-Maersk A/S as its next chief financial officer, tapping
another outsider to help the American conglomerate turn around its
Carolina Dybeck Happe, who has been the Danish shipping giant's
finance chief less than a year, will join GE in early 2020.
Previously, she spent 16 years at Assa Abloy AB, a Swedish maker of
door locks. She succeeds Jamie Miller, who had been GE's CFO for
about two years and will leave the company after the
GE CEO Larry Culp, the first outsider to run the conglomerate,
said in July he was looking to hire a new finance chief. The
company is trying to turn around its business after two difficult
years that forced it to slash its dividend and shed businesses.
The CFO change comes while GE's accounting practices are under
investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and
Exchange Commission. GE is also considering switching its auditor,
after working with KPMG LLP for more than a century.
Ms. Dybeck Happe is "a proven global CFO who knows how to
deliver results and create value," Mr. Culp said in an interview.
He praised her performance at Assa Abloy, which he said delivered
strong shareholder returns with a small central management team and
decentralized structure. "That is the frame that would work well
with us at GE," he said.
The GE boss said he had never met Ms. Dybeck Happe until the
search process, which he said had been his priority in recent
months. GE worked with a recruiting firm and considered several
candidates but Mr. Culp called Ms. Dybeck Happe "a kindred
Wall Street analysts long suspected that Mr. Culp, who took over
in October 2018, would want to have his own CFO in place, but Ms.
Miller held on for more than a year before her boss decided to make
The timing of her departure raised some eyebrows because GE
announced the change without having a successor ready to step up,
an unusual move at a company once known for its elite management
development and deep bench of capable of executives.
Ms. Miller was the first woman in the CFO role at GE. She was
promoted into the job in October 2017 after former CFO Jeff
Bornstein abruptly announced his retirement. Within weeks, GE
slashed its financial forecasts and its dividend as problems in its
power business and financial services arm came to light. Within
months, GE revealed a $15 billion hole in its legacy insurance
holdings and the regulatory probes.
"Jamie Miller walked into an impossible situation when given the
job," said Melius Research analyst Scott Davis when her departure
was announced in July. "But textbook turnarounds almost always
include a new finance staff."
Ms. Dybeck Happe faces challenge of cutting costs and continuing
GE restructuring, while helping GE reduce its pile of debt. Under
Mr. Culp, GE has pushed a style of lean management processes that
emulate Toyota with rigorous reviews of operations and decision
making, on a daily basis in some cases. He has also said GE's
turnaround would take years.
Ms. Dybeck Happe, 47 years old, will be based in Boston and
oversee global finance organization as well as digital technology
and global operations functions. A native of Sweden, she currently
serves on the boards of French industrial company Schneider
Electric SE and German electric utility E.ON.
In addition to the federal probes and potential auditor change,
the new finance chief will face several challenges. She will have
to quickly become acquainted with GE's complex finances and find
ways to cut costs and boost efficiency at plants, said John Inch, a
managing director at Gordon Haskett Research Advisors.
GE is selling off assets, including a pending $21 billion sale
of a biotech business to Danaher Corp., to reduce its debt levels.
Management's long-term goal is to lower GE's net debt to less than
$30 billion. GE had net debt of $49 billion at the end of the third
GE submits thousands of tax filings annually, according to Mr.
Inch, and in 2017 agreed to move more than 600 tax employees over
to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as part of a slimming down exercise.
"As new CFO, you will have to deal with a very complex tax
structure," Mr. Inch said.
Ms. Dybeck Happe is the second senior executive to leave Maersk
in the past 10 days. Last Monday, former chief operating officer
Soren Toft left Maersk to join competitor Mediterranean Shipping
Co. as chief executive of the container ship division. Maersk CEO
Soren Skou said his successor would come from inside Maersk.
Write to Thomas Gryta at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 25, 2019 09:06 ET (14:06 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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