Electrolux chairman signals confidence in CEO despite GE deal collapse

Electrolux CEO Keith McLoughlin, speaks at the Electrolux Capital Markets Day in Charlotte in November 2014
Electrolux CEO Keith McLoughlin, speaks at the Electrolux Capital Markets Day in Charlotte in November 2014

Electrolux’s chairman said this week he has confidence in the CEO of the Stockholm-based appliance maker, despite the collapse of the company’s deal to buy General Electric’s appliance unit.

“I think he can stay,” Ronnie Leten told a Swedish news agency at a conference this week. “Keith McLoughlin’s position is completely independent of what happened with GE.”

Electrolux’s North American headquarters is in Charlotte, where it employs about 900. On Monday, GE backed out of its $3.3 billion deal with Electrolux, amid opposition from antitrust officials at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Some analysts have suggested McLoughlin, an American who became CEO five years ago, could lose his job over the failed acquisition.

“Electrolux has put a lot of time, money and prestige into this deal,” Mattias Eriksson, chief strategist at Nordea, told the Wall Street Journal this week. “As the company goes back to the drawing board it might be a natural time to switch chief executive.”

Electrolux has said it will now focus on research and development for new products while keeping its eyes open for new acquisitions. The company has said it plans to keep its North American headquarters in Charlotte

“Although we are disappointed that the acquisition will not be completed, Electrolux is confident that (it) has strong capabilities to continue to grow and develop its position as a global appliances manufacturer,” McLoughlin said earlier this week.

McLoughlin has acted as interim CEO of Electrolux’s North American division since April, when Jack Truong resigned from the position on the same day the company warned its earnings would be lower than expected. Electrolux has said it will announce a new CEO of the Charlotte-based division in coming months.

At the conference this week, Leten, who is also CEO of Swedish industrial company Atlas Copco, said McLoughlin “has done and continues to do a fantastic job.”

Electrolux, he added, is a “very strong organization, and what’s happening and needs to happen, will happen.”

Electrolux shares in Stockholm are down more than 18 percent since GE called off the deal.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker