Update (0930ET): President Trump has tweeted his sympathies to Welch's family:
Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of GE, a business legend, has died. There was no corporate leader like “neutron” Jack. He was my friend and supporter. We made wonderful deals together. He will never be forgotten. My warmest sympathies to his wonderful wife & family!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2020
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Jack Welch, a railroad conductor’s son who became chairman and CEO of General Electric and led it for two decades, growing its market value from $12 billion to $410 billion, has died. He was 84.
As CNBC reports, John Francis Welch Jr. was born Nov. 19, 1935, in Peabody, Massachusetts, to Irish American parents. His father was a conductor for the Boston & Maine Railroad and his mother was a homemaker. The younger Welch studied chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1960.
Welch joined GE in 1960 as a chemical engineer in its plastics division in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He became a vice president in 1972 and vice chairman seven years later. In April 1981, at age 45, he succeeded Reginald H. Jones as chairman and chief executive officer.
Welch insisted that all of GE’s divisions be market leaders. ″Fix it, close it or sell it,” he was fond of saying.
Fortune magazine dubbed him “manager of the century” in 1999.
“Though he acted with what seemed at the time like blitzkrieg aggressiveness, he regretted in later years that he hadn’t moved even faster,” Fortune editorial director Geoffrey Colvin wrote in explaining the title.
“Having been handed one of the treasures of American enterprise, he said, he was ‘afraid of breaking it.’ Not only did Welch not break it, but he transformed it as well and multiplied its value beyond anyone’s expectations.”
Welch retired from GE in September 2001, days before the 9/11 attacks. Upon his retirement, The New York Times published an editorial that gushed over his professional record.
“Mr. Welch was a white-collar revolutionary, bent throughout his career at G.E. on championing radical change and smashing the complacency of the established order,” the editorial said. “His legacy is not only a changed G.E., but a changed American corporate ethos, one that prizes nimbleness, speed and regeneration over older ideals like stability, loyalty and permanence.”
Survivors include his third wife, the former Suzy Wetlaufer, whom he married in 2004. He filed for divorce from his second wife, Jane, after reports surfaced that he was having an extramarital affair with journalist Wetlaufer. Four days before the divorce trial was to begin, Jack and Jane Beasley Welch reached a settlement that reports said was worth $180 million. He divorced his first wife, Carolyn, the mother of his four children, in 1987.