Magazine article Newsweek

'The President on Line 1'

Magazine article Newsweek

'The President on Line 1'

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel McGinn

When NEWSWEEK last sat down with Jack Welch, in December 2000, he'd just picked Jeff Immelt as his successor, and the U.S. Supreme Court had just cemented George W. Bush's presidential victory. At one point, Welch interrupted the interview to take a call from the president-elect. In an interview this month, Welch told NEWSWEEK's Daniel McGinn what they discussed--and why he didn't think an affair would cost Suzy her job. Edited excerpts:

Did the president talk to you about a cabinet post?

I've had opportunities to be considered.

You weren't interested?

They're brutally hard jobs. You have to understand, the reason CEOs don't often make great cabinet officers is they've been the chief executive for the last, in my case, 21 years. Going to be a staff man for somebody else's policies is not something that appeals to me in any way, shape or form.

You were approached last year to run Coca-Cola. Have you ruled out becoming a CEO again?

Absolutely positive.

The recent firing of Boeing's CEO involved romantic e-mails he sent to another Boeing executive. Your ex-wife, Jane, discovered your affair with Suzy when she saw your e-mails. Are people too naive about the privacy of e-mail?

I think e-mails are difficult if people are doing something wrong, but I wouldn't make a broad point about it. If Eliot Spitzer picks up a bad e-mail because somebody is setting prices, I'm glad he did. But I was retired; my affair was with someone who was divorced--I'd send those e-mails tomorrow. …

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