Jack Welch, former GE CEO, is dead

Former General Electric chairman and CEO Jack Welch has passed away at the age of 84.

Posted: Mar 2, 2020 10:25 AM
Updated: Mar 2, 2020 1:15 PM


Jack Welch, who led General Electric through 20 years of its greatest financial success, has died. He was 84.

Welch became CEO of GE in 1981 and led it until his retirement in 2001.

'Today is a sad day for the entire GE family,' GE CEO Larry Culp said in a statement. 'Jack was larger than life and the heart of GE for half a century. He reshaped the face of our company and the business world. Jack was a strong and constant influence throughout my career despite never having worked directly for him.'

Welch, who was named 'Manager of the Century' by Fortune magazine in 1999, massively increased the scope and financial might of GE during his time at the top of the company. The market value of the stock rose from $14 billion to more than $400 billion, an increase of more than 2,700%, during those 20 years.

'He had a tremendous focus on shareholder value,' said Jeff Sonnenfeld, a Yale business professor and founder and president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, who taught Welch in the early 1980s.

Sonnenfeld noted that Welch also pushed GE into new lines of businesses, with mixed results. For instance, Welch presided over GE's 1986 takeover of NBC-owner RCA. GE sold the business to Comcast in 2013.

And under Welch, GE plowed headfirst into financial services, creating one of the world's largest banks. Yet GE Capital imploded during the 2008 financial crisis, nearly bringing the rest of GE with it.

'That provided a cookie jar. But it was a diversion that many European industrial giants didn't get distracted with,' said Sonnenfeld.

Welch became the leading proponent of the business theory known as 'Six Sigma,' the push to constantly improve the way business is conducted at a company.

And under his theory, any business unit that was not either the leader or No. 2 in its market should be fixed, sold or closed. And it also called for managers at the business to be ranked, and those at the bottom of the ranking to be cut loose.

By following those rules, Welch became known as 'Neutron Jack,' as he shed both divisions and individual managers who he believed were not performing at a sufficient level. His first year as CEO in 1981, he sold close to 100 businesses, said Sonnenfeld.

The first thing he did was reverse what been the biggest deal in GE history, its $2 billion merger with mining company Utah International in 1976, Sonnenfeld said. It was the nation's largest merger at the time.

Welch also had his critics while he was CEO, who accused GE of manipulating or managing its earnings to smooth out results, timing when certain gains or losses might be reported. Throughout Welch's time as CEO GE reported nothing but steady earnings growth that met or beat forecasts, even when external economic factors created much more uneven results at its competitors.

GE eventually faced accusations from the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2009 that it improperly manipulated results. It settled those charges, paying a $50 million fine. But it did not admit wrongdoing, and the results included in the settlement were reported after Welch had left the company.

In 2012, Welch accused the Labor Department of similar manipulation, saying that it had inflated the official jobs report number just ahead of the 2012 presidential election to help President Barack Obama's re-election chances. He was widely criticized for the charge, for which he admitted he had no firm evidence other than doubts about the jobs number that was reported.

GE has struggled mightily in recent years, as it shed many of the units Welch had brought on, and made deep cuts in its headcount, which has fallen by more than 100,000 in just the last two years.

Its once prized share price became a laggard, as the company slashed its dividend to a penny a share. But the deep cuts that Culp has made have helped to turn around shares in recent months before the recent market correction.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20772248
Hinds19888408
Harrison17489302
Rankin13311275
Jackson13097243
Madison9895210
Lee9856169
Jones8290160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7187237
Lowndes6262144
Lamar610584
Lafayette6027117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4419139
Warren4280118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403675
Neshoba3987176
Lincoln3869108
Hancock372085
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3180104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265779
Wayne261341
Leake261073
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120041
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81823
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518899

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753641487
Mobile37763798
Madison33859494
Tuscaloosa25266443
Montgomery23962565
Shelby23106238
Baldwin20631300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14284311
Morgan14139268
Etowah13662345
Marshall11957219
Houston10380278
Elmore9993200
Limestone9811147
Cullman9470188
St. Clair9426234
Lauderdale9215227
DeKalb8746181
Talladega8058171
Walker7087275
Jackson6754110
Autauga6723103
Blount6483135
Colbert6203130
Coffee5399112
Dale4767110
Russell428838
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia387674
Dallas3527149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256258
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218775
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171440
Washington164038
Macon154548
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 61°
Columbus
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Oxford
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Starkville
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
A cold front will move into our area during our Tuesday. This front will bring some chances for some rain and isolated thunderstorms for our Tuesday night. Some of the activity will linger in our area into our Wednesday.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather