Bloomberg Law
Oct. 13, 2015, 10:34 PM

GE General Counsel Announces Retirement, Successor

Casey Sullivan

General Electric’s general counsel Brackett Denniston III announced his retirement on LinkedIn on Tuesday and welcomed his successor, Alex Dimitrief, who is known at the $150 billion conglomerate as the general counsel of GE Capital.

“It’s a momentous day for me,” Denniston wrote in a note that he published among his LinkedIn connections. “I posted here what I shared with my GE friends and colleagues today.” (Below is Denniston’s note, published in full. Click here for our follow-up interview with Denniston.)

Denniston had been general counsel of GE for 11 years and manned its legal department through growth, turbulence and restructuring, advising it throughout regulatory scrutiny amid its recent $14 billion acquisition of Alstom’s power business, as well as its selling of assets of GE Capital.

Dimitrief, a former partner of Kirkland & Ellis and a 1985 Harvard Law School graduate, will succeed Denniston after three years at the helm of GE Capital.

According to a press release announcing the transition, Denniston will retire from the company at the end of 2015, while Dimitrief will assume the role of GE general counsel and senior vice president on Nov. 1.

In the time Denniston spends at the company for the rest of the year, he will focus on the Alstom transaction and its $3.3 billion sale of GE’s Appliances business to Electrolux, the release said.

The transition had been known internally at GE for some time, according to a source close to the company, although this is the first time Denniston has publicly acknowledged his retirement.

From Denniston’s memo:


I am a big fan of the Byrds, and one of my favorite songs is “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Written by Pete Seeger and with lyrics from the Bible (Ecclesiastes) it is about seasons and a “time for every season.”

As many of you have seen, I announced my retirement today. But “retirement” is not really the right word. Rather, I am getting out of the way to let my friend, Alex Dimitrief, do this great and wonderful job. And I am moving on to do some things I’ve always wanted to do. There is a time for every season, and I am looking forward to this next season.

To head the best legal organization in the world has been an immense privilege. We have accomplished a great deal, including:

  • A peerless compliance organization and a world-renowned reputation for doing the right thing

  • A record of high performance. In the eleven years I have been General Counsel, for example, we have not had a verdict against us which wasn’t reversed on appeal of more than a few hundred thousand dollars. We have handled tough investigations and done it with skill and integrity.

  • We have negotiated and closed hundreds of deals. Our M&A teams have worked these deals while protecting the company, and cleared them all — including Alstom, the toughest of all.

  • We spent time reshaping the IP organization, and we have an extraordinary record of protecting our IP — which is at the heart of GE’s innovation.

  • We did the Housatonic and Hudson and did it like no one else could. We defended and tried asbestos cases — and cut our expenses dramatically.

  • We implemented GE Solutions, which protected the company while becoming a national model for fair dispute resolution.

  • We have the most envied government affairs organization. While we have not won every government battle, we have a very high batting average. Witness what the DC team did in helping to achieve a discharge petition in the US Congress last week—something that has been done only three times in thirty years.

  • We have a superb reputation as a governance leader. When I met with the GC of Trian, our new big shareholder, he was quick to mention this.

  • We have done all this while building a more diverse, global organization. And we have done it with our hearts and our devotion to pro bono.

All of this is because of you, not me. Granted, we have never been perfect. But our successes tell a story about the best people. My deep thanks to all of my colleagues. And I know Alex will make the place even better.

* * * *

In the next season, I hope to do some writing and teaching. I hope to work cases that I want to do, and I hope to spend more time with my beloved (and growing!) family most of all.

I had the advantage of inheriting a great organization built by Ben Heineman (usually the word “legendary” is correctly coupled with Ben), to whom I remain profoundly grateful. I have tried to preserve it and to make it better.

I have had the privilege — an extraordinary one — of working for a singular leader, Jeff Immelt. And the privilege of working for another singular legend, Jack Welch, who wisely persuaded me to stay with GE when I had other temptations. Hard to beat that.

I hope in the next few months to say “thank you” in person to as many of you as I can. It’s been some ride!

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