GE names hedge fund Trian executive Ed Garden to board

(Reuters) - U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co, which major shareholder Trian Fund Management has been pressuring to conduct a more thorough restructuring, appointed the hedge fund’s chief investment officer to its board on Monday.

Edward Garden will replace Robert Lane, who is retiring due to health reasons after a dozen years as a director, GE said in a statement.

The surprise move comes one day before shareholders at consumer products company Procter & Gamble Co will decide whether to elect Trian Chief Executive Nelson Peltz to its board.

Trian, which invests $14 billion in assets for pension funds, endowments and wealthy investors, has owned a roughly 1 percent stake in GE since 2015.

Four months ago, GE said longtime CEO Jeff Immelt would step down and that John Flannery, a 30-year company veteran who had run its healthcare business, would succeed him.

The company’s lackluster stock performance was seen to have prompted Immelt’s departure, which came months before analysts had expected, but the shares have continued to fall. They were down 3 percent in Monday morning trading.

“Like other GE shareholders, I am disappointed by the recent performance of GE’s stock,” Garden said in a statement. “But I continue to believe that GE represents an attractive long-term investment opportunity with significant upside.”

The most recent wave of executive departures was announced last week and includes Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Bornstein. Jamie Miller, CEO of GE Transportation, will become CFO next month.

Although Trian is an activist investor that demands change at companies, it is also known for working behind the scenes with management to improve performance. It rarely pushes out a CEO the way some other activists do, and it often sticks around, often for years, as transformations occur.

After discussions with Trian, GE in March set a $2 billion cost-reduction target and linked the bonuses of its senior management to meeting profit-related goals.

As a board member at Bank of New York Mellon Corp, Garden most recently helped hire former Visa Inc CEO Charles Scharf to replace Gerald Hassell, who is retiring. Garden is also a board member of Pentair Plc.

Since its 2005 inception, Trian has returned an average 8 percent a year to investors, according to data from HSBC Holdings Plc’s hedge fund investment arm.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Lisa Von Ahn