Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, dies at 84

Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric

Jack Welch, the former Chairman, and CEO of General Electric, whose business prowess catapulted the company to the most valuable in the world and made him a household name, has died on Sunday in New York City. He was 84.

His death was confirmed on Monday by GE, and his wife Suzy told media the cause of death was renal failure.

Welch’s wife, Suzy, said in a statement released, “More than anything else – leader, business icon, management genius – more than those things, although they are all true too- Jack was a life force made of love,”

“And somehow, crazily somehow, he also managed to be the greatest husband and step-father who ever lived, giving our family twenty amazing years of adventure, happiness, and joy. Our hearts, so much larger and fuller having known and loved him, are broken,” her statement said.

Welch served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric (GE) from 1981-2001. During his 20 years of leadership in this position, Welch increased the value of the company from $13 billion to several hundred billion.

Welch was born in 1935. He received his B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1957 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1960.

In 1960, Welch joined GE as a chemical engineer for its Plastics division in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was elected the company’s youngest Vice President in 1972 and was named Vice Chairman in 1979. In December 1980 it was announced that he would succeed Reginald H. Jones, and in April 1981 he became the 8th Chairman and CEO. He served in that position until he retired in September 2001.

As CEO of GE, Welch’s management skills became almost legendary. He had little time for bureaucracy and archaic business ways. Managers were given free reign as long as they followed the GE ethic of constant change and striving to do better. He ran GE like a small dynamic business able to change as opportunities arose or when business became unprofitable.

GE saw great growth and expansion under Welch’s leadership. Through streamlining operations, acquiring new businesses, and ensuring that each business under the GE umbrella was one of the best in its field the company was able to expand dramatically from 1981 to 2001.

In 1999, Fortune Magazine named him the “Manager of the Century,” and the Financial Times recently named him one of the three most admired business leaders in the world today.

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