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Biography of Jack Welch

Gaynor Borade
John Francis 'Jack' Welch, Jr. is the former chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE). He served as the head of management between 1981 and 2001. His innovative strategies and business style have earned him high regard in business circles, even years after the end of his tenure with GE.
Jack Welch is known for an inherent business acumen, and created a number of revolutionary leadership strategies while in office at General Electric. His tenure at GE lasted for two whole decades during which he enriched the business world with moves that have now become sacred law. He remains a highly regarded figure in business even today and his net worth was estimated at USD 720 million in 2006!

Early Life

Jack Welch was born on November 19, 1935 in Peabody, Massachusetts. His father, John Welch, was a conductor for the Boston and Maine Railroad service, while his mother, Grace, was a homemaker. He attended the Salem High School and went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1957.
He secured a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in chemical engineering. He earned his MS and PhD in 1960, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Career at GE

Jack Welch began his tenure at General Electric in 1960, as a junior engineer in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at a salary of USD 10,500 per annum. In 1961, his annual raise and the strict bureaucracy within the then existent General Electric totally disillusioned him. He even made plans to join International Minerals and Chemicals, Skokie, Illinois.
It was the foresight of Reuben Gutoff, a young executive at GE, that convinced Welsh to stay on. He agreed mainly on the basis of the promise that Gutoff would work towards changing the existent bureaucracy within the company. Welsh's genius was duly recognized and he rose to the post of vice president in 1972. Thereafter, there was no turning back.
Jack Welch became senior vice president in 1977 and took over the office of vice chairman in 1979, before becoming the youngest chairman and CEO of GE in 1981. Within a year as CEO, he replaced nearly all the management strategies executed by Reginald H. Jones, his predecessor. He worked hard to make GE buoyant and competitive.
His name became synonymous in the business world with:
  • Increasing shareholder value
  • Management productivity and accountability
  • Trimmed inventories
  • Dismantling exploitative bureaucracy
Corporate America did not take long to follow in his footsteps. His brutal candor with executives pushed them to perform better. His reward system involved bonuses and stock options. He completely destroyed management hierarchy, ushering in an era of informality within the corporate world.
He was fondly called 'Neutron Jack', with reference to the bomb that went by the same name. He increased the market capital of GE even prior to the company's modernization in the 1990s. Under his leadership, GE expanded from manufacturing to financial services with the help of numerous acquisitions.
Armed with the innovative Six Sigma quality program, he earned the company massive revenue. Welch retired from office in 2001 after making GE one the world's most valuable companies, rightly earning him the epithet 'Manager of the Century' by Fortune magazine. By 2004, its revenue had grown to more than USD 410 billion. Industry analysts still struggle to evaluate the credibility given to him for GE's success.
He was an active member of the Augusta National Golf Club, Nantucket Golf Club, Country Club of Fairfield, and Sankaty Head Golf Club. The Sacred Heart University's College of Business was renamed John F. Welch College of Business on January 25, 2006. He will remain a global warming skeptic and darling of the corporate world.
Jack Welch died of kidney failure at the age of 84 on March 1,2020.