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GE CEO Jack Welch

Jack Welch (1935–2020), former chairman and CEO of General Electric

by Linnea Crowther

Jack Welch was the chairman and CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001, a time of prosperity for the company. Welch is considered one of the successful and influential business leaders of his time.

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Died: March 1, 2020 (Who else died on March 1?)

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Details of death: Died at home of renal failure at the age of 84.


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Welch’s rise to the top: The son of a railroad conductor, Welch studied chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Illinois. He joined GE in 1960 when he was fresh out of graduate school, working as a chemical engineer in the company’s plastics division. By 1972, he was a vice president, on his way to becoming CEO nine years later. As CEO, Welch helped improve GE’s bottom line by slashing more than one hundred thousand jobs, a move that inspired like-minded business leaders while also earning Welch harsh criticism and the nickname “Neutron Jack” for his bomb-like razing of GE’s workforce. He acquired other companies including RCA and Kidder Peabody, and he demanded success from each of GE’s divisions. With Welch at the helm, GE became one of the world’s most valuable companies. In 1999, Fortune magazine named Welch Manager of the Century.

Notable quote: “Control your destiny, or someone else will.”

What people said about him: “RIP Jack Welch, 84. One of the world’s greatest ever business leaders & such a smart, amusing, charismatic guy. Interviewed him on my old CNN show & unlike so many others, he was very kind to me when I left. I judge people how I find them — Jack was a class act.” —Broadcaster Piers Morgan

“Jack Welch has died at 84. A true business legend, philanthropist, and business education advocate. He touched and inspired so many lives. Rest in peace.” —Fox Business host Charles V. Payne

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives:

  • David Koch (1940–2019), industrialist who funded conservative politics
  • Steve Jobs (1955–2011), Apple chairman and CEO
  • David Rockefeller (1915–2017), patriarch of the Rockefeller family

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