Jack Welch, G E Chief Who Became A Business Superstar, Dies At 84

In 1981, when we first defined our business strategy, the real focus was Japan. The entire organization had to understand that GE was in a tougher, more competitive world, with Japan as the cutting edge of the new competition. Nine years later, that competitive toughness has increased by a factor of 5 or 10. We face a revitalized Japan that’s migrated around the world—to Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, the United States—and responded successfully to a massive yen change. There are great European business people, dynamic leaders, people who are changing things.

Under his guidance, the company grew with a market value of 12 billion dollars, to 410 billion dollars when he retired. Upon retiring, Welch received an amount of 417 million dollars as compensation. When his strategy of being first or second in each market became, in his words, “tired,” he mandated that every business opened up to new markets where they held less than a 10% share. Welch said in a 1986 speech that he had the choice to “fix, close or sell” various underperforming businesses. “It began some of the genesis of ‘Neutron Jack,’” he said. In a world where economic growth was stuttering, he was investing in businesses that looked like winners. Between 1983 and 1985, Welch entered GE into 118 acquisitions, joint ventures, and new companies, and disposed of 71 others.

Business Characteristics

Did not disclose those benefits to shareholders and later reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to do so. By the early 1990s, with G.E.’s profits and stock price rising sharply, G.E. Seemed to offer a model for making big companies more nimble and competitive. “It was a different way of management and it took hold,” said Joseph L. Bower, a professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School, who wrote a widely taught case study of Mr. Welch and interviewed him over the years. Jack Welch, who led General Electric through two decades of extraordinary corporate prosperity and became the most influential business manager of his generation, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He officially took over the reins from Jones in 1981. Welch worked as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for General Electric for twenty years until he retired.

In his sophomore year, he became a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. Welch graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering, turning down offers from several companies in order to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He graduated from the University of Illinois, in 1960, with a master’s and a PhD in chemical engineering. Jack Welch (John Francis Jack Welch Junior – 19 November 1935) is an American businessman, author, and chemical engineer. Between 1981 and 2001, he was the Chief Executive Officer and chairman of General Electric, where the value of the company increased by 4,000% during his term. On retirement he joked that he would get to the gym “at 10 a.m. Instead of 5 a.m.” He worked as a corporate consultant for some years after leaving GE and became a familiar TV pundit and management guru.


My friend, the former CEO of GE, was not a perfect leader. But his curiosity, his candor, and his focus on making the right people decisions ensure that he remains a role model. These are three aspects of effective leadership that we should all seek to cultivate. Many of his management and leadership strategies, including his ‘Rank and Yank’ policy became very popular and soon other companies were following him.

The potential for meanness in an organization, for a variety of reasons, is often in inverse proportion to level. People at the top have more time and resources to be fair. I wasn’t trained to be a judge, but I spend a lot of time worrying about fairness. The data I get generally favor the manager over the employee. But we have two people at headquarters, fairness arbitrators so to speak, who sift the situation. So when I get a problem, I can smell it and feel it and try to figure out what’s really happening. Managers down in the organization don’t have the time or help for that.

  • These were attractive, profit-generating businesses away from the march of manufacturing in Japan and other Asian countries.
  • Mr. Tichy was manager of GE’s Management Education Operation from 1985 through 1987.
  • But his curiosity, his candor, and his focus on making the right people decisions ensure that he remains a role model.
  • Welch envisioned a system where not only the inventor of a good idea but all the others who recognized and developed that idea would be rewarded.
  • In 1979, Jack Welch became the Vice Chairman of the said Division.
  • On March 11, 2010, Welch cameoed as himself in the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, appearing in the season four episode “Future Husband”.

Some don’t like the dinner in the evening because they can’t get along with the other people. As people meet over and over, though, more of them will develop the courage to speak out. The norm will become the person who says, “Dammit, we’re not doing it. This process will create more fulfilling and rewarding jobs. The quality of work life will improve dramatically. Cross-functional teams cooperated to address actual business problems. Each functional group developed a vision of where its operations are headed.

Who Was Jack Welch?

Mr. Welch early on recognized the rise of Asia, then led by Japan, as a manufacturing powerhouse, and he shed G.E. Businesses that he deemed vulnerable, moving into new ones. Ivy League educations and MBAs were no guarantees of success at GE under Jack Welch, which would come as no surprise considering that his training was in science and his degrees were from state schools.

jack welsh bio

Whoever was insufficiently imaginative or reluctant to embrace Welch’s vision was dismissed. In 1960, Jack Welch joined General Electric as a chemical engineer in the plastics division. He planned to quit from General Electric when he realized that he was not given a substantial raise. He agreed to stay at General Electric after he was persuaded by Reuben Gutoff who was an executive. In 1963, there was an explosion in the factory under his management, and he almost lost his job. The plastics division in the company grew at a high rate under his command.

Jack Welch Biography, Life, Interesting Facts

A second highlight of Jack’s leadership was his extraordinary candor. He was an able leader, though also considered brutal for his firing policies. He would frequently fire employees and sometimes could be too strict on them. Yet his leadership strategies worked wonders and the company increased its revenues manifold over the years. In 1960 as an engineer in its plastics division in Pittsfield, Mass., with a starting salary of $10,500.

jack welsh bio

Now, the business leaders aren’t particularly thrilled that we’re so passionate about Work-Out. In 1989, the CEO is going to every business in this company to sit in on a Work-Out session. Well, I’m not there to tell them how to price products, what type of equipment they need, whom to hire; I have no comments on that. We now have leaders in each of the businesses who own those businesses. Eight years ago, we had to sell the idea of ownership. Today the challenge is to move that sense of ownership, that commitment to relentless personal interaction and immediate sharing of information, down through the organization. We’re very early in this, and it’s going to be anything but easy.

Jack Welchs Approach To Leadership

Welch filed for divorce from his second wife, Jane, after reports surfaced that he was having an extramarital affair with journalist Wetlaufer. Four days before the divorce trial was to begin, Jack and Jane Beasley Welch reached a settlement that reports said was worth $180 million. He divorced his first wife, Carolyn, the mother of his four children, in 1987. “Mr. Welch was a white-collar revolutionary, bent throughout his career at G.E. on championing radical change and smashing the complacency of the established order,” the editorial said. “His legacy is not only a changed G.E., but a changed American corporate ethos, one that prizes nimbleness, speed and regeneration over older ideals like stability, loyalty and permanence.” HBR’s own relationship with Welch was also complicated. In 2002, HBR editor Suzy Wetlaufer resigned after The Wall Street Journal reported that she’d commenced a romantic relationship with Welch after interviewing him for the magazine.

  • In 1963, there was an explosion in the factory under his management, and he almost lost his job.
  • These are three aspects of effective leadership that we should all seek to cultivate.
  • Their job is to create and grow new global businesses.
  • Work-Out will expose the leaders to the vibrations of their business—opinions, feelings, emotions, resentments, not abstract theories of organization and management.
  • In 1971, he became the Vice President of General Electric’s metallurgical and chemical divisions.
  • Welch’s core management belief was that high-performing managers could turn around almost any business, so GE experimented with everything from television to synthetic diamonds.

Throughout the 1970s, Welch worked diligently and consistently from promotion to promotion. In 1973, he was promoted to Head of Strategic Planning for General Electric.


In 1959, Jack Welch married Carolyn Osburn with whom he had four children. In 1989, he married his second wife Jane Beasley who was a lawyer. In 2003, he got divorced from Jane due to his affair with Suzy Wetlaufer. In 1999, Jack Welch was named the Manager of the Century. His book ‘Winning’ became Number one on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list.

Yet he said that every business must embrace green products and green ways of doing business, “whether you believe in global warming or not … because the world wants these products”. At GE, Welch became known for his teaching and growing leaders. He had taught at MIT Sloan School of Management and taught seminars to CEOs all over the globe. “More than 35 CEOs at today’s top companies trained under Jack Welch”. JWMI students had direct access to Welch and he hosted quarterly video conferences with his students. Since September 2006, Welch had been teaching a class at the MIT Sloan School of Management to a hand-picked group of 30 MBA students with a demonstrated career interest in leadership.

It can strangle, choke, delay, and create insecurity. If you’re going to have simplicity in the field, you can’t have a big staff at home. We don’t need the questioners and the checkers, the nitpickers who bog down the process, people whose only role is to second-guess and kibitz, the people who clog communication inside the company. Today people at headquarters are experts in taxes, finance, or some other key area that can help people in the field. Our corporate staff no longer just challenges and questions; it assists. This is a mind-set change; staff essentially reports to the field rather than the other way around.

jack welsh bio

Well-known for his role as chairman and CEO of General Electric for close to twenty years, John Francis Welch, Jr., was born on November 19, 1935. He stated that global warming is “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring”, and that it is a form of “mass neurosis”.

Welch’s income and assets came under particular scrutiny during his divorce from his second wife, Jane Welch, in 2001, for adultery with the woman who became his third wife. Court filings during the divorce described Welch’s GE compensation, which led to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the then-retired Welch’s employment contracts with GE.

Does GE still own Honeywell?

The General Electric Company has agreed to acquire Honeywell International, the diversified manufacturer, for $45 billion in stock, capping several intense rounds of deal making that broke up an impending merger between United Technologies and Honeywell.

He took education seriously but was more concerned with cultivating talented managers who could run successful businesses. As the 1990s progressed Welch instituted the Six Sigma program at GE. Initially implemented at Motorola and Allied-Signal, the program was developed to maximize the efficiency of manufacturing processes through the minimization of production of defective units.

This decision will have paramount effects on future activities. Welch was passionate in making people GE’s core competency. There was a lengthy and publicized succession planning saga prior to his retirement among James McNerney, Robert Nardelli, and Jeff Immelt, with Immelt eventually selected to succeed Welch as chairman and CEO. His successor plan had always been a priority, as noted in his 1991 speech “From now on, is the most important decision I’ll make. It occupies a considerable amount of thought almost every day.”

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