The incoming CEO of Icahn Enterprises, Aris Kekedjian, knows how to work both sides of a deal.
The General Electric veteran ascended the ranks of the conglomerate’s once-colossal lending arm, GE Capital, and then earned himself a reputation by rapidly selling off chunks of the floundering business to the highest bidder.
As GE’s global head of M&A in the post-2008 fallout, Kekedjian executed a series of deals over two years that saw the company dispose of over $250 billion in financial assets, according to his LinkedIn profile. That includes the $23 billion sale of GE’s real estate assets to Blackstone and Wells Fargo, as well as the sale of its U.S. private-equity lending business to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for about $12 billion.
That’s just scratching the surface of the slew of deals Kekedjian, who eventually became GE’s chief investment officer before leaving in 2019, played a hand in during his nearly three-decade tenure at the company. And his track record of aggressive dealmaking and experience in global operations for the conglomerate could position him well to lead Icahn Enterprises, a holding company for scores of businesses that Icahn holds a stake in.
Kekedjian and Icahn Enterprises did not return Institutional Investor’s request for an interview. But a look back at deals brokered by the incoming chief executive show a cost-cutting mindset and relentlessness well-suited for Icahn’s firm.
A 2015 Bloomberg story recounted how Kekedjian struck the deal to sell GE’s real estate assets to Blackstone and Wells Fargo. That deal was key in sparking a string of dispositions that accelerated the dismantling of GE Capital, which had nearly sunk the whole company in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
With the deadline for the deal just hours away, Kekedjian assembled negotiators in a room and opened an iPhone program that mimics a hotel call bell, ringing it each time they agreed to a point, Bloomberg reported. Kekedjian, at that point, had not slept in two days, the report said.
“The lawyers were livid” at being rushed, Kekedjian told Bloomberg. “We just cut through it all by putting the principals in a room and just pushing and pushing and pushing through it.”
In 2016, Kekedjian was elevated to chief investment officer.
In his new role, Kekedjian took his dealmaking beyond GE’s financial-lending business to shore up the balance sheet and find value across the conglomerate, according to a release from Icahn Enterprises. He also headed up a series of smaller, but notable, deals across the conglomerate’s portfolio, including the $1.65 billion acquisition of LM Wind Power and the $3.25 billion sale of GE Distributed Power.
Since stepping down in 2019, Kekedjian founded consulting firm Webbs Hill Partners and has served on various boards, including a brief stint at XPO Logistics. He has also served as an advisor to Canadian financial firm ECN Capital and Rainmaker Worldwide, which describes itself as a “water-as-a-service” business.
Kekedjian replaces Keith Cozza, who served as Icahn Enterprises CEO since 2014. Icahn said Cozza will remain with the company through May 31 to help with the transition and is stepping down due to the firm’s relocation to Florida from New York.