Mr. Welch, a native of Salem, Massachusetts, served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric (GE) from 1981-2001. During his 20 years of leadership in this position, Welch increased the value of the company from $13 billion to several hundred billion.
Mr. Welch was born in 1935. He received his B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1957 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1960.
In 1960, Mr. Welch joined GE as a chemical engineer for its Plastics division in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was elected the company's youngest Vice President in 1972 and was named Vice Chairman in 1979. In December 1980 it was announced that he would succeed Reginald H. Jones, and in April 1981 he became the 8th Chairman and CEO. He served in that position until he retired in September 2001.
As CEO of GE, Mr. Welch's management skills became almost legendary. He had little time for bureaucracy and archaic business ways. Managers were given free reign as long as they followed the GE ethic of constant change and striving to do better. He ran GE like a small dynamic business able to change as opportunities arose or when a business became unprofitable.
GE saw great growth and expansion under Mr. Welch's leadership. Through streamlining operations, acquiring new businesses, and ensuring that each business under the GE umbrella was one of the best in its field the company was able to expand dramatically from 1981 to 2001.
In 1980, the year before Welch became CEO, GE recorded revenues of roughly $26.8 billion; in 2000, the year before he left, they were nearly $130 billion. The company went from a market value of $14 billion to one of more than $410 billion at the time of his retirement, making it the most valuable and largest company in the world, up from America's tenth largest by market cap in 1981.
In 1999, Fortune named him the "Manager of the Century," and the Financial Times recently named him one of the three most admired business leaders in the world today.
Mr. Welch is the head of Jack Welch, LLC, where he serves as Senior Advisor with the private equity firm, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and is an advisor to IAC (Interactive Corp). He also speaks to business audiences and students around the world.
Mr. Welch is the author of Winning, a #1 Wall Street Journal and international bestseller. In 2001, he wrote his #1 New York Times and also international best-selling autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut. He and his wife Suzy Welch currently write a biweekly business column for several Thomson Reuters digital platforms and for Fortune magazine. From 2005 to 2009, they wrote a column, The Welch Way, for Business Week magazine, which was also published by the New York Times syndicate, where it appeared in 45 worldwide newspapers with more than 8 million readers.
Mr. Welch recently launched the "Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University," a unique online MBA and certificate program aimed at giving students globally and at every career level the tools to transform their lives and the organizations of the future. Information about the Institute can be found at: www.jwmi.com.
"What will be expected of managers in the future? Intellectual breadth, strategic capability, social sensitivity, political sophistication, world-mindedness, and above all, a capacity to keep their poise amid the cross-currents of change."
If anyone could have served as a model for this specification for the manager of the future, it is its author, Reginald H. Jones.
Mr. Jones' entire business career was with General Electric. He joined the company's Business Training Course in 1939. Three years later, he began an eight-year tour as a traveling auditor, an assignment that took him to nearly every plant in the company. Then he moved into general management, serving as manager of various company businesses in consumer, utility, industrial, construction and distribution fields. In 1968, he became the company's chief financial officer, and was elected senior vice-president two years later.
In 1972 he became president, then chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric. There he brought fresh vitality and new strategic direction to one of the most diversified enterprises in the world. Most of that diversification came from strong internal growth fostered by research and development, strategic planning and the introduction of the sector structure which, "prepared the organization and the people to meet General Electric's long-range growth opportunities in the decade ahead."
Under Jones' administration, the company's sales more than doubled ($10 billion to $22 billion) and earnings grew even faster ($572 million to $1.4 billion). A major thrust was into international markets. As Chairman of the President's Export Council, Mr. Jones became an eloquent voice for the expansion of world trade and the restoration of U.S. competitiveness.
But Mr. Jones is best known to the public for his role in changing the relationship between business and government. As Chairman of the Business Council and Co-Chairman of The Business Roundtable, he was a leader in the movement to develop a constructive business-government dialogue. Three Presidents and their Cabinets chose to call on him frequently for sophisticated counsel on economic policy. His most significant achievement in the policy arena was recognition in Washington of the nation's capital formation problem, and his important role as spokesman on the issues of tax policy, trade, monetary reform, unemployment, and human rights.
His work as a thoughtful and public-spirited counselor on public policy won him broad acceptance in both parties - a credibility most unusual for a leading business executive. U.S. News and World Report, in its 1979 and 1980 surveys of "Who Runs America," reported that his peers regarded Jones as the most influential person in business. Mr. Jones used this well-earned influence to advance fresh ideas for the solution of economic and social problems of his time.
Chosen Businessman of the Year for 1970 by the Saturday Review (January 23, 1971), Fred Borch received twice as many votes as any other candidate for that honor in American business, finance, or government. He had been elected chairman of the board at General Electric only two years earlier.
Borch was born on April 28, 1910, in Brooklyn, New York, where his father was an electrical engineer with the Brooklyn Edison Company, now a part of consolidated Edison Company of New York.
Most of Borch's schooling took place in Ohio, mainly in the Cleveland area. Schoolboy jobs included two summers as an office boy with The Cleveland News. Later, while a student at Case Western Reserve University, which he entered in 1927, he held a summer job as a timekeeper on a construction project for an electric power transmission line. In 1931, he received his B.A. in economics and went to work as an auditor with General Electric in the Lamp Division at Nela Park.
By 1940, Borch had become manager of the Lamp Division's customer service organization and, in 1947, he was named manager of the Sales Operation Department. In 1952, he joined the administrative department of the Lamp Division, and later the same year undertook a special assignment with the company's Management Consultation Services in New York.
In 1953, he was entrusted with the task of restructuring the Lamp Division into six operating departments as part of the company-wide decentralization program. The following year he was named vice president for Marketing Services, and from there on worked closely with Ralph I. Cordiner, the man he succeeded as chief executive of General Electric.
In September, 1959, he was appointed vice president and group executive for the company's Consumer Products Group, the post he held until his election as executive vice president in July, 1962. In this position he was elected to the Board of Directors and given responsibility for the operating components of the company on a worldwide basis, jobs he continued to handle after he was elected president and chief executive officer in December, 1963, and chairman on December 20, 1968. During his tenure, Borch essentially added another General Electric to the one whose direction he assumed. Sales and earnings of the company almost doubled between 1963 and 1972, the year that he retired. That phenomenal growth was, at least in part, due to Borch's keen judgment and motivation of people - his well recognized ability to choose "the right man for the job, for sizing up people and then getting the best out of them." (World-Telegram and Sun, December 22, 1964). The management team that Borch left in place at the time of his retirement was ample testimonial to this talent.
Gerald L. Phillippe, who became chairman of the board of General Electric in 1963, was widely known for his leadership in the nationwide effort to enlist the support of business in attacking urban problems, and unemployment. He was founder of the Urban Coalition.
Born in Ute, Iowa, September 27, 1909, Phillippe spent his boyhood in Basin, Wyoming. Early in his youth he acquired the nickname of "Flip," by which he came to be known throughout the business and financial communities.
During World War II Phillippe moved into his first managerial position as manager of the Statistics Division, with some 200 people reporting to him. He immediately won their admiration for his managerial skills.
In 1947 Phillippe was appointed auditor for the Apparatus Department, and in 1950 was named comptroller for the department. In November, 1951, he was appointed manager-finance of the Apparatus Sales Division. Two years later he was elected comptroller, chief financial officer of the company. He served in this position and as general manager of the company's Accounting Services until his election as president and a member of the board of directors on August 2, 1961. He became chairman of the board in 1963, succeeding the retiring Ralph Cordiner in that post.
Gerald L. Phillippe's term was cut short by his death in 1968, at the age of 59, but his astute leadership had left its mark on the growth of the company. His service to humanity also left its mark on the spirit of the company.
In honor of his leadership in public service, General Electric established the Gerald L. Phillippe Awards, recognizing outstanding social contributions by the award of a medal and an opportunity to designate a charity or educational institution for a $1000 grant from the General Electric Foundation.
Credited with developing GE's postwar reorganization and decentralization program which brought new flexibility and a sharper focus on specific markets, Ralph J. Cordiner was the fifth president of General Electric.
He was born in 1900 on a 1280-acre wheat farm in Walla Walla, Washington. He worked his way through Whitman College by doing odd jobs and selling washing machines. He graduated in 1922 with a degree in economics, and joined the Pacific Power and Light Company as a commercial manager. Within a year he joined the Edison General Electric Appliance Company, a GE affiliate, where he became Northwest manager and then Pacific Coast division manager in 1930. He transferred to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1932 and became a leader of the Company's expanding appliance business, rising to manager of the Appliance and Merchandise Department in 1938.
Cordiner left GE in 1939 to become president of Schick, Inc., and is credited by Time magazine with putting that company "back on its feet" in a brief three-year tenure. In 1942, he went to Washington to work with GE president Charles E. Wilson on the War Production Board, returning to GE in 1943 as Wilson's assistant. In 1950, he was elected the Company's president, succeeding Wilson who, at President Truman's request, resigned to become director of the Office of Defense Mobilization.
Cordiner was elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1958, and also served as president of the Company during 1961, prior to the election of Gerald L. Phillippe as president in August of that year.
To better cope with General Electric's burgeoning growth, Cordiner made each of some 120 department general managers responsible for a particular segment of GE business, handling assignments that he described as "not too big for one man to get his arms around." The organization reflected the view that the natural aggregate of many individually sound decisions will be better for the business than centrally-planned and controlled decisions. Cordiner outlined his decentralized management philosophy in the book New Frontiers for Professional Managers in 1956. He also established the GE Management Development Institute at Crotonville, New York, which opened an entirely new approach to the education of personnel for advanced management.
Cordiner was president of the Business Council, a group of business leaders who advised the government on business affairs. He also served as chairman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Professional and Technical Compensation in the Armed Forces.
The first Gold Medal Award of the Economic Club of New York City was conferred on Ralph Cordiner in recognition of his contributions to "principles of management and to the strength and prosperity of the nation."
In 1963, Cordiner retired after forty years of service to General Electric. He died in 1973.
Philip Reed attended the public schools of Milwaukee and in 1917 entered the University of Wisconsin, but quit in his freshman year to join the Army. An appendix operation kept him out of the American Expeditionary Forces; when the Armistice came he was at Fort Monroe, training for the heavy artillery.
Reed returned to Wisconsin to complete his degree in electrical engineering. GE, then scouting for engineering talent, offered Reed a job at $115 a month, but he refused it. Instead, he took a $2,000-a-year job with a firm of patent lawyers in New York. By studying nights at Fordham, he got his law degree in 1924, and in due course was admitted to the New York Bar.
In 1926, went to work for Judge C. W. Appleton in GE's law department in New York where he had frequent contact with Swope and Young, who gave him an assortment of special assignments.
Reed was transferred to the Incandescent Lamp Department in 1927 and became its general counsel in 1934. Because he was an effective speaker, he was invited by plant managers to talk on labor relations, company policies and pension plans. In December 1937, he was appointed assistant to the President and two years later was elected chairman of the board.
In February 1941, Mr. Reed began his government war-time service, becoming senior consultant to the Priorities Division of the Office of Production Management, which later became the War Production Board. He was subsequently named chief of the bureau of Industries, War Production Board, and in July 1942, went to London as deputy to W. Averill Harriman who headed a lend lease mission to England. In 1943, the President created the United States Mission for Economic Affairs in London and appointed Reed its chief, with the rank of minister. He returned to private life on January 1,1945.
A month later, Reed, who had resigned all his posts with General Electric when he went abroad, was again elected a director and chairman of the board. In addition, he was elected chairman of the board of the International General Electric Company.
Reed continued to take part in public affairs. In 1945, he was consultant to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization. From February 1945 to July 1947, he was chairman of the U.S. Associates of the International Chamber of Commerce, which submitted the Montreux Plan for Economic stability to the State Department.
Charlie Wilson was born in 1886 on the lower West side of New York. At the age of twelve, he left P.S. 32 to take a job as office boy with the Sprague Electrical Works, a GE subsidiary. He was in the seventh grade. Soon, he was made a factory hand and augmented his on-the-job training with night courses in accounting, engineering and mathematics. By twenty-one, he was assistant superintendent of the plant.
In 1923 he was transferred to Bridgeport, with the title of managing engineer. As Bridgeport became heavily involved in the production of appliances, Wilson's duties expanded. In 1928 he became assistant to the vice president in charge of the Merchandise Department, and in 1930 vice president in charge of all appliances.
In December 1937, Wilson was elected executive vice president of General Electric, a new position involving responsibilities for all company departments. Two years later he was elected president of the company, succeeding Gerard Swope.
For two and one half years, Wilson served as a vigorous and imaginative president. Then, in September 1942, with the United States struggling to increase production of war material, Wilson went to Washington, at the request of President Roosevelt, to become vice chairman to the War Production Board. Mr. Swope came out of retirement to resume the duties of GE president.
As wartime boss of the huge U.S. production effort, Wilson achieved some spectacular successes, particularly in aircraft, shipbuilding and munitions. He served in this capacity until August, 1944 when he returned to GE and was again elected a director and president.
In 1946, President Truman named Wilson chairman of the Civil Rights Committee, whose members studied and recommended new civil rights legislation to protect "all parts of our population."
Because of the worsening international situation, an Office of Defense Mobilization was set up in 1950 and in December, President Truman asked Wilson once again to come to Washington and become its director. Concurrently, Wilson resigned his GE presidency and all his directorates.
After having completed 51 years of continuous service with General Electric, Wilson took on a job which was described in Washington as second in importance only to the Presidency of the United States. His public service did not end with that position. In 1956, he became president of the People-to-People Foundation, a non-partisan program promoting international friendship and understanding.
John G. Forrest, writing in the New York Times, said, "Charles Wilson is a big man by any standard, physical, moral, or mental." Mr. Wilson died in 1972 at the age of 85.
Gerard Swope, who started out with the General Electric Company in 1893 as a helper at $1 a day, became president of GE in 1922, and served in that post for nearly 20 years.
His career and his personality were once summarized by an associate: "Probably no man in his generation has been more ardently devoted to his country and its interests and more willing to devote his great energies and abilities unsparingly to this work than Gerard Swope. These qualities have manifested themselves in everything with which he has come into contact. And in all his activities, whether as business executive or economic leader, his thinking is of a fundamental and analytic quality undoubtedly influenced by his engineering training."
He was born in St. Louis, Mo., on December 1, 1872. As the result of a desire to see the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, he went to that city while still an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became a helper at the GE Chicago Service Shop.
Swope was graduated from M.I.T. in 1895, with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and returned to Chicago, this time in the shops of the Western Electric Company. Four years later, he went to St. Louis as manager of the Western Electric office, and in 1906 was transferred to Chicago. He went to New York as general sales manager two years later.
In 1913, Swope was named a vice president and director. Four years later, he visited the Orient, organizing a Chinese Western Electric Company and promoting trade interests and telephone service in the East.
During the first World War, Swope served on the War Department General Staff in connection with the Army's procurement and supply program. For his outstanding achievements, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the President of the United States and was named a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government.
He was brought to General Electric in 1919, by Charles A. Coffin, then president. When the foreign department of GE was enlarged that year into a new organization, the International General Electric Company, Swope became its first president. He was elected president of General Electric in May, 1922.
Owen D. Young (the "D" signifying no particular name) was born in Van Hornesville, N.Y., on October 27, 1874. He was 16 years old when his parents mortgaged the farm to send him to St. Lawrence University at Canton, N.Y. Upon his graduation in 1894, he turned to Boston University where he completed the three-year law course in two years, while also supporting himself by tutoring and library work.
In 1896, Young joined the Boston Law office of Charles H. Tyler and within a few years became a partner where he came to the attention of Charles A. Coffin, the first president of General Electric. In 1913, he became chief counsel and vice president in Charge of Policy.
In 1919, at the request of the government, Young created the Radio Corporation of America to combat threatened foreign control of America's struggling radio industry. He served as RCA's board chairman until 1929.
The GE Board of Directors elected him president of the company in 1922. Later in 1922 Young succeeded Coffin as chairman of the board of General Electric while Gerard Swope was appointed president of the company. They remained in these roles until 1939, when they both asked for retirement.
Under their direction, GE began the extensive manufacture of electric appliances for home use. The introduction of a host of electrical consumer goods required extensive enlargement of GE's advertising, marketing, distribution and service organizations - not to mention its engineering and manufacturing facilities.
The Depression did not spare GE, but the diversification measures, which Young and Swope had instituted improved the economic security and general welfare of GE workers and helped cushion the blows of the Depression.
Young served as a member of the German reparations commission in 1924. Out of this international conference came the Dawes plan. In 1929, Young was called upon to head another committee of experts to unify further German payments. This group drafted the Young Plan for handling reparation payments on the basis of a new total sum.
From 1924 through 1932, his name figured prominently as a possible Democratic nominee for president, but he refused to encourage the hat-flingers.
In 1942, Owen D. Young returned as chairman of the board of GE. He remained as the chairman of the board until 1945.
Long active in education, Young was a trustee of St. Lawrence University from 1912 to 1934, serving as president of the board the last 10 years. He was a member of the New York State Board of Regents, governing body of New York's educational system, until 1946 when Governor Thomas E. Dewey called upon him to head the state commission that laid the groundwork for a state university system in New York.
In the twentieth century, many technology-based corporations began as "spin-offs" of great research universities. But one of the 19th century's seminal technology-based companies, Thomson-Houston, was a high-school spin-off. Its founder was a professor at Philadelphia's Central High School, Elihu Thomson. Its first engineer was Thomson's star pupil, Edwin W. Rice, Jr.
Coming from a well-to-do family, Rice could have gone on to college in 1880. But the prospect of continuing his collaboration with Thomson attracted him more. "He has been my professor ever since I met him away back in the year 1876," Rice later wrote. "What a mine of knowledge ready to be explored, as willing to give as I was to receive its richness!"
Together, the two young men developed an entire range of electrical equipment, from generators to meters. Their enterprise survived early financial difficulties, and grew to compete on even terms with Edison's. Rice contributed valuable inventions. His voltage regulator was used for years on Thomson-Houston dynamos. But his real talents were in the management of manufacturing. At the age of 22, he became the factory manager of Thomson-Houston's Lynn, Massachusetts plant.
With the formation of General Electric in 1892, Rice got the chance to exercise his administrative talents on a larger stage. He was GE's first technical director, and from 1896, vice-president in charge of manufacturing and engineering.
In this post, he recognized the need to supplant the empirical techniques of the Edison-Thomson era with modern science and mathematics. In 1892, he was favorably impressed by a brilliant paper delivered at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers by a young German immigrant named Charles Proteus Steinmetz. He tried to lure Steinmetz away from his employer, Rudolph Eickemeyer, to work for GE. That failing, he convinced GE's president Charles A. Coffin that the combination of Eickemeyer's patents and the genius of Steinmetz ought to be purchased. Under Rice's aegis, Steinmetz rose to the post of Consulting Engineer. And, at the urging of Steinmetz, Rice founded the GE Research Laboratory and hired Willis R. Whitney as its first director.
In contrast to some of the outgoing, dynamic leaders of the early electrical industry, Rice was reserved and judicial in temperament. In 1913 he succeeded Charles A. Coffin as president of GE. Coffin, however, recognized Rice's limitations as a businessman, and continued to hold the company reins as chairman of the board. But throughout the electrical industry, Rice was widely respected as both an electrical pioneer and an industrial statesman.
"A man born to command, yet who never issued orders." This phrase sums up the leadership qualities of Charles A. Coffin, General Electric's first president. His executive skills helped establish GE's place in the front rank of American corporations.
Electrical manufacturing was Coffin's second career. At 18, he moved from Fairfield, Maine, where he had been born in 1844, to enter his uncle's shoe business at Lynn, Massachusetts. He later founded his own shoe manufacturing firm, and by 1883 had established himself as an outstanding success in this line.
In that year, Silas A. Barton, a Lynn businessman, proposed bringing to the city the struggling young American Electric Co. of New Britain, Connecticut, whose major asset was the inventive genius of Elihu Thomson. A businessman was needed to supplement Thomson's technical skills. Coffin was prevailed upon to take the post.
He led the new company, Thomson-Houston, to parity with Thomas Edison's companies, the previous leaders in the field. When negotiations in 1892 led to the formation of General Electric, a key step in creating a viable enterprise was the installation of Coffin as its first chief executive officer.
Coffin's associates (and he always made a point of calling them "my associates," not "my subordinates") knew him as a gracious gentleman and delightful companion. He never ordered one of them to do anything, preferring to rely on his powers of suggestion. In his turn, he graciously sought and welcomed suggestions from those around him and then decisively made up his own mind on key questions.
Customers and competitors knew him as both the outstanding statesman and the outstanding salesman of the electrical manufacturing industry. He took a personal interest in major negotiations, often writing business proposals to important customers in his own hand. At tense meetings, he knew how to relieve the pressure with an appropriate anecdote, and how to add the key words to bring matters to a successful conclusion.
His greatest test came in the depression of 1893. A cash shortage threatened GE's existence. He coolly negotiated a deal with J. P. Morgan whereby New York banks advanced the needed money as payment for utility stocks that GE held. The tactic saved the company and made possible its rapid recovery and growth during the remainder of his tenure. The strength and wide-ranging excellence of the company he passed on to Owen D. Young and Gerard Swope when he retired from the board chairmanship in 1922 was and remains his greatest monument.