Welch got his start at the company as a chemical engineer in 1960. Within eight years, he rose to vice president and head of GE Plastics, and by 1981, he was VP of the metallurgical and chemical divisions.
He went on to hold the additional positions of head of strategic planning, senior vice president of consumer products and services and vice chairman.
Jack Welch's Legacy
By the time he was appointed chairman and CEO in 1981, Welch was the youngest leader in GE’s history.
He became known for improving efficiency by cutting inventories, closing factories, reducing payrolls, trimming underperforming units and simplifying and consolidating a management structure whose former bureaucratic nature had frustrated him for years.
Welch also pioneered the now-imitated annual policy of firing his bottom 10% of managers — a process that contributed to his lifetime termination of 100,000 employees.
Throughout his tenure, Welch's team closed 600 acquisitions, including RCA and its NBC subsidiary; penetrated emerging markets, shifted the focus from manufacturing to financial services; and grew revenue more than five times its historic value.
Welch retired in 2001 with a $417-million severance package, the largest in the decade, and was worth $750 million at the time of his death.
What’s Left Of Welch's Work
Many of Welch’s achievements have been unwound by his successors at GE.
The $400-billion market cap he claimed has since dissipated to $95 billion. GE has been booted off the Dow 30, and two of Welch’s most significant acquisitions — NBC Universal and GE Capital — have been sold.
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