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.