By John S. McClenahen Rumors have flown for a few years that Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co. might soon bail out of its signature lighting and appliances businesses. GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt instead is combining them into a single business unit called GE Consumer Products and headquartered in Louisville, Ky. "We want to create a simpler, more efficient business that will be competitive across all product lines," says Immelt. "By taking out administrative costs, we will be able to put that money back into investing in new technologies and building greater brand awareness." Immelt didn't say it as he announced the consolidation on Aug. 29, but surely another goal is to increase the businesses' rate of return to the diversified $125.9 billion corporation. The reorganization is "effective immediately," says GE. James P. Campbell, a 20-year GE veteran and previously president and CEO of GE Appliances, will be president and CEO of GE Consumer Products. Matthew J. Espe, president and CEO of GE Lighting, is leaving the company to become head of IKON Office Solutions.