Welch, Jack

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Welch, Jack

Jack Welch (John Francis Welch, Jr.), 1935–, American business executive, b. Salem, Mass., grad. Univ. of Massachusetts (1957); Univ. of Illinois (M.S., 1958; Ph.D., chemical engineering, 1960). He joined General Electric (GE) in 1960 and became vice president (1972) and then vice chairman (1979). In 1981 he became chairman and CEO of GE; at 45, he was the youngest person ever to have held that position. Under Welch, GE made a series of aquisitions, including RCA with its NBC television network in 1986, that resulted in its becoming the world's largest manufacturing, technology, and service company, with 1999 revenues of over $110 billion. Welch is credited with "reinventing" GE by encouraging decentralization in the organization, plus speed, simplicity, and self-confidence among management, but he was also known as "Neutron Jack" because of the number of employees that were fired or laid off during his tenure. He introduced the "Work Out" concept, a results-focused approach to problem solving. The development of GE's financial services arm, which became increasingly significant under his leadership, ultimately proved to be a liability after he retired in 2001.

See his Jack: Straight from the Gut (with J. A. Byrne, 2001); studies by T. F. O'Boyle (1998) and R. Slater (1998).

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