GE Appliances CEO Chip Blankenship resigns - WDRB 41 Louisville News

GE Appliances CEO Chip Blankenship resigns

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Chip Blankenship led GE Appliances from 2012 to 2017. Chip Blankenship led GE Appliances from 2012 to 2017.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- GE Appliances CEO Chip Blankenship has resigned after nearly six years leading the Louisville-based company.

Kevin Nolan, a General Electric Co. veteran who is chief technology officer for GE Appliances and its parent company Qingdao Haier, succeeds Blankenship effective today, GE Appliances said in a news release.

Blankenship, 51, will remain with GE Appliances in an advisory role through the end of the year. His decision to step down was voluntary, the company said.

Blankenship’s departure comes a year after General Electric sold its Louisville-based appliance division to China’s Qingdao Haier for $5.6 billion.

Liang Haishan, chairman of Qingdao Haier’s board of directors, said in a news release that GE Appliances’ performance “exceeded our expectations during our first year together,” surpassing “internal forecasts.”

Blankenship, who was unavailable to comment, said in the press release that it was the “right time” to step aside.

“During my tenure leading GE Appliances, we have achieved significant improvements in our products, plants and processes that have made us more competitive and yielded improved financial performance,” he said.

An engineer with a doctorate from the University of Virginia, Blankenship led the business with about 12,000 employees through a tumultuous set of transitions.

After employment at Louisville Appliance Park dipped to its lowest point in the factory’s 60-year history during the Great Recession, General Electric began re-investing billions of dollars in the business and added about 3,000 production workers.

In 2014, GE said it would sell the appliance division to Sweden-based Electrolux, which sparked fears of job consolidation with Electrolux’s U.S. headquarters in Charlotte and U.S. factories.

But GE backed out after the federal government sought to block the takeover on antitrust grounds.

Shortly after Haier took over last year, Blankenship succeeded in getting the union representing about 4,000 Appliance Park production workers to agree to a tough labor contract that cut overtime pay and created a new tier of entry-level positions starting at $12 an hour.

Some longtime rank-and-file workers make over $30 an hour.

Nolan, a 27-year GE veteran, has been chief technology officer since 2006. He played a key role in establishing FirstBuild, the micro-factory where GE Appliances tests new concepts near the University of Louisville campus.   

Besides Nolan, GE Appliances promoted its vice president of sourcing, Melanie Cook, to chief operating officer, and chief marketing officer Rick Hasselbeck becomes chief commercial officer.

Nolan, Cook and Hasselbeck will form the new GE Appliances “executive council,” the company said.

Haishan said the fact that Haier promoted in-house executives shows “the faith and confidence that Qingdao Haier has always had in GE Appliances’ management.”

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Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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