Chip Blankenship

GE Appliances CEO Chip Blankenship will leave the company at the end of the year and will be succeeded immediately by a company veteran who will lead a new three-person leadership team.

Blankenship will be succeeded by Kevin Nolan, current vice president and technology officer, who will lead a leadership team, called the GEA Executive Council, which also includes Chief Operating Officer Melanie Cook, who previously served as vice president of sourcing; and Chief Commercial Officer Rick Hasselbeck, formerly chief marketing officer. Nolan, Cook and Hasselbeck will begin their new roles immediately, GEA said.

The management shuffle comes about a year after the former General Electric division was acquired by China-based Qingdao Haier in a $5.6 billion deal.

Blankenship, who has helmed the business for nearly six years, said that GEA has a strong foundation upon which the next leaders can build.

“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,” Blankenship said in a press release.

Liang Haishan, Haier’s chairman, said the company was grateful for Blankenship’s “passion, commitment and … expertise.”

“The business’s performance and leadership team under Chip’s direction has exceeded our expectations during our first year together,” he said. “GEA’s performance following the acquisition in 2016 surpassed initial internal forecasts.”

Kevin Nolan

Nolan has been with GE for 27 years. An engineer by trade, he has focused on innovation, was awarded 23 patents, and co-founded the appliance division’s innovation hub FirstBuild.

The company said the executives were not immediately available for interviews.

The appliance division’s transition from the venerable General Electric Co. to Haier was marked with drawn-out and contentious contract negotiations. Early this year, GEA and its employees reached a new four-year contract, ending a long impasse that had pitted the GEA’s new Chinese owner, driven to improve the company’s profitability, against workers who had gone without raises for two years.

Dana Crittendon, president of the local union, which represents the company’s 4,000 hourly workers, said he was surprised about Blankenship’s decision to leave.

He said he appreciated that Blankenship was always open to discussing business with union leaders.

“I was pleased with Chip’s leadership and hate to see him depart,” Crittendon said.

The union leader also said he plans to soon reach out to Nolan and the leadership team to discuss goals and strategies to continue to move Appliance Park in the right direction.

UPDATE: This story was updated with comments from the union.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.