- Jack Welch, General Electric hard-charging former CEO who purchased NBC owner RCA in the 1980s, has passed away. He’s 84.
Jack Welch, General Electric hard-charging former CEO who purchased NBC owner RCA in the 1980s, has passed away. He’s 84.
CNBC announced Welch’s death Monday, where Welch made appearances following his retirement in 2001.
During his 20 years as CEO, Welch transformed GE into one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. RCA’s $6.2 billion takeovers in 1986 brought GE into the media business for the next 25 years. GE sold a controlling stake in what became NBC Universal to Comcast in January 2011— after NBC acquired Universal Studios in 2004. In 2013 Comcast scooped the rest of the company up.
Welch received the “Neutron Jack” nickname for his persistent effort to cut costs, unemployment, and inefficiency in GE’s extensive business operations, ranging from high finance to large-scale engineering projects to consultancy and brokerage firms. Welch was famous for his demand that GE’s companies in their respective markets are either No. 1 or No. 2. According to CNBC, ′′fix it, lock it or sell it.
NBC’s GE takeover was tumultuous, as memorialized in-jokes were presented on NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman.” Letterman got a lot of attention from a video clip of what he dubbed “the GE handshake” when he appeared unannounced with a fruit basket and a video crew at the GE lobby in New York to get to know the new owners. An executive who approached the late-night host in the lobby momentarily reached out his hand to Letterman but then immediately removed it as he realized he was on tape.
Welch was born in Massachusetts and entered GE as a chemical engineer in 1960. In 1972, he was upped as VP and in 1981 he was named Chairman-CEO. GE’s market cap on Welch’s watch grew from $12 billion to $410 billion.
Welch has helped the celebrity CEO set the pattern. On Wall Street, he was admired for his emphasis on success and willingness to make radical changes in search of greater profits. GE became recognized under Welch for its no-mercy approach to employee appraisals and the need to root out underperformers.
Welch tapped GE executive Bob Wright, who had experience on cable TV during his brief Cox Communications tenure, to take NBC’s helm after the RCA deal was completed. Wright stayed on top of NBCUniversal until he retired in 2007.
After his retirement in 2001, Welch wrote an autobiography, “Jack: Straight From the Heart.” He and his third wife, Suzy Wetlaufer, former editor of Harvard Business Review, whom he married in 2004, were involved as public speakers through the online course of the Jack Welch Management System in business education.
Death of Jack Welch will go down as one of the biggest losses in the industry, known for his leadership skills and tough decisions Jack Welch was surely a rockstar.