Jack Welch

Jack Welch

  • DOB:

    November 19, 1935

  • Age:


  • Country:

    United States

  • Hometown:

    Peabody, MA

  • Known For:

    CEO of GE

  • Spouse/Partner:

    Suzy Wetlaufer

  • Religion:


  • Education:

    University of Massachusetts Amherst



Jack Welch (1935–2020) was an American business executive who served as the CEO and chairman of General Electric (GE) from 1981 to 2001. In two decades, GE’s market value soared from $14 billion to over $400 billion,[1] making it one of the most valuable companies in the world. Welch’s management style, known for its emphasis on speed, simplicity, and self-confidence,[2] has been both praised and criticized for its impact on corporate culture and short-term profit focus.[3] 


  • CEO and chairman of General Electric from 1981 to 2001
  • Founded the Jack Welch Management Insitute
  • Named “Manager of the Century by Fortune magazine

Related People

About Jack Welch

John Francis “Jack” Welch Jr. was born on November 19, 1935, in Peabody, Massachusetts, to John Francis Welch Sr., a railroad conductor, and Grace Welch, a homemaker.[4] Welch’s maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland. The Welch family practiced Catholicism.[5] 

As a teenager, Welch’s first job was as a golf caddie. Throughout his teenage years, he also worked as a shoe salesman, newspaper delivery boy, and drill press operator.[6] Welch attended Salem High School, where he was a member of the golf, basketball, and baseball teams.[7] 

He went on to study chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 1957.[8] Welch then earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1960.[9]

Working for General Electric

Welch joined General Electric in 1960 as a junior chemical engineer in the company’s plastics division.[10] In 1961, Welch planned to quit his job because he was unhappy with his pay and the bureaucracy at the company. However, Reuben Gutoff, an executive at the company, persuaded him to stay and help change the company culture.[11] 

He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming GE’s Vice President of Plastics in 1968 and then Vice President of the Chemical and Metallurgical in 1973. In 1977, Welch became Senior Vice President and Head of Consumer Products and Services. In 1979, Welch was named Vice Chairman of GE.[12]  

Running General Electric

In 1981, at the age of 45, Welch became the youngest CEO in GE’s history.[13] He immediately initiated a radical transformation of the company, implementing a strategy that focused on making GE either the first or second most competitive company in every market it served.[14] This approach led to the divestment of more than 200 underperforming businesses, the acquisition of over 600 companies, and a massive restructuring that resulted in the loss of over 100,000 jobs.[15]

Welch popularized the “rank and yank” policy, which involves ranking employees against their coworkers. Each year, he fired the bottom 10% of managers, regardless of their absolute performance. The top 20% of managers earned bonuses and stock options.[16] 

GE’s frequent job cuts earned Welch the nickname “Neutron Jack,” a reference to the neutron bomb. The nickname referred to Welch’s habit of eliminating people from the company while leaving the company infrastructure standing. Though he disapproved of this nickname, it stuck with him throughout his life.[3] 

Welch’s management style was characterized by a relentless focus on performance, cost reduction, and growth. He introduced the Six Sigma quality program, which aimed to reduce defects and improve productivity across GE’s operations.[17] Welch was also known for his “boundaryless” approach to business, encouraging the sharing of ideas and best practices across divisions and hierarchies.[2]

Under Welch’s leadership, GE’s revenues grew from $25 billion in 1980 to $410 billion at the time of his retirement in 2001. The company’s revenue increased from $28 billion to $170 billion during that same time period.[18] 

In 1986, Welch led the acquisition of RCA for $6.28 billion in cash.[19] This was GE’s largest acquisition under Welch’s leadership. Welch’s primary goal in the acquisition was to obtain ownership of NBC. Following the acquisition, Welch sold off most of RCA’s other companies and assets but maintained ownership of NBC.[20] 

During Welch’s time at GE, the company shifted its focus from manufacturing to the finance industry. When Welch retired in 2001, his retirement package was worth an estimated $420 million.[21] 

Criticisms and Controversy

Despite his many achievements, Welch’s tenure at GE has not been without controversy. Critics argue that his aggressive cost-cutting measures and focus on short-term profits led to a decline in long-term investments and innovation. Additionally, some claim that his management practices contributed to a culture of corporate greed and excessive executive compensation.[3]

Welch’s “rank and yank,” approach to employee evaluation has also been criticized for fostering a cutthroat environment that prioritized individual performance over teamwork.[22] 

Environmental concerns have also been raised about GE’s operations during Welch’s tenure. The company was involved in several high-profile environmental controversies, including the pollution of the Hudson River with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).[23]

In 2002, Welch received scrutiny from the media when an affair with Harvard Business Review’s editor-in-chief Suzy Wetlaufer leaked. The affair led to Welch’s divorce from his wife, Jane. Welch married Wetlaufer in 2004.[24] 

Life After GE

After retiring from GE in 2001, Welch pursued a successful career as a business consultant, speaker, and author.[25] He was a paid consultant for G100, an exclusive club for executives. He also consulted for private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Barry Diller, the CEO of IAC. 

As a speaker, he earned $150,000 per appearance.[26] Welch also co-authored several best-selling books, including Jack: Straight from the Gut (2001), Winning (2005), and The Real-Life MBA (2015).

In 2009, Welch founded the Jack Welch Management Institute, an online executive education program focused on teaching his management principles to a new generation of leaders.[27] The Princeton Review named the program one of the “Top 25 Online MBA Programs” in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.[28]  

In 2016, Welch joined other top business leaders in forming an economic advisory team to advise Donald Trump on economic policy and strategy.[29]  

Personal Life

Welch married his high school sweetheart, Carolyn B. Osburn, in 1959, and they had four children together.[30] The couple divorced in 1987, and Welch later married Jane Beasley, a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer, in 1989.[31] The couple divorced in 2003 after reports that both members of the relationship had been involved in affairs. Through the divorce settlement, Jane Welch received $180 million from her former husband.[32]  

In 2002, Welch met Suzy Wetlaufer when she interviewed him for Harvard Business Review, where she was editor-in-chief. They began dating soon after their initial meeting, despite Welch being married at the time to Jane Welch. Their marriage was held on April 24, 2004, at Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. The couple remained married until Welch’s death.[33] Jack Welch passed away on March 1, 2020, due to renal failure, at the age of 84.[34]


Welch was known for his conservative political views and was an outspoken supporter of Republican candidates and policies.[35] He frequently shared his opinions on social media and in various media appearances.[36] In 2012, Welch made headlines when he accused the Obama administration of manipulating unemployment data, a claim that was widely criticized and ultimately debunked.[37]

In 2016, Welch publicly supported Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, stating his approval of Trump’s policies on tax reform, government regulations, and national security. However, Welch withdrew his support after an audio recording was released that caught Trump making crude comments about women.[38]

Jack Welch Quotes

  1. “Control your own destiny, or someone else will.” —Jack Welch, Jack: Straight from the Gut [39]
  2. “Change before you have to.” —Jack Welch, Jack Welch Speaks: Wit and Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Business Leader[40]
  3. “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” —Jack Welch, Learning From the Best: Lessons From Award-Winning Superintendents [41]
  4. “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” —Jack Welch, Jack Welch Speaks: Wit and Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Business Leader[40]
  5. “The best leaders create a ‘brain trust’ of diverse knowledge and opinions that will surface more creative solutions.” —Jack Welch, Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book[42]
  6. “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.” —Jack Welch, Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book[42]
  7. “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” —Jack Welch, Harvard Business Review [2]
  8. “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” —Jack Welch, Jack Welch Management Institute[43]
  9. “I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.” —Jack Welch, Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book[42]
  10. “Leadership, very simply, is about two things: 1. Truth and 2. Trust. Ceaselessly seeking the former, relentlessly building the latter.” —Jack Welch, The Real-Life MBA [44]

Jack Welch Legacy

Jack Welch’s impact on modern business and management practices is undeniable. His emphasis on speed, simplicity, and self-confidence has left a lasting mark on corporate culture. His transformation of General Electric into a global powerhouse remains a case study in effective leadership and strategic decision-making. Business consultant Ron Ashkenas argues in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article, “Jack Welch’s approach to breaking down silos still works.”[2] 

However, Welch’s legacy is also marked by controversy. David Gelles wrote a scathing review of Welch’s legacy in his book, The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America―and How to Undo His Legacy.[45]

Gelles criticizes the long-term impact Welch left on American manufacturing. He says that many of the jobs Welch cut were sent overseas, stating: “We see the first great wave of labor, American manufacturing labor, going abroad, and thus begins the real beginning of serious outsourcing that would, of course, decimate America’s manufacturing base.”[45]

Despite the debates surrounding his tenure, Welch’s influence on the business world is widely acknowledged. In recognition of his contributions to business, Welch received numerous accolades during his lifetime, including being named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune in 1999.[46] He was also inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2005.[47]

Although Jack Welch’s legacy remains a subject of debate, his impact on the business world is indisputable. As a leader who challenged conventional wisdom and pushed the boundaries of corporate performance, Welch’s life and career serve as an enduring example of the complexities and challenges inherent in modern business leadership.


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  1. GE Reports. (2020). Jack Welch, the ultimate manager who oversaw GE’s rise to the most valuable company, dies at 84. GE News. https://www.ge.com/news/reports/jack-welch-the-ultimate-manager-who-oversaw-ges-rise-to-the-most-valuable-company-dies-at-84 
  2. Tichy, N. M., & Charan, R. (1989). Speed, simplicity, self-confidence: An interview with Jack Welch. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/1989/09/speed-simplicity-self-confidence-an-interview-with-jack-welch 
  3. Arnold, C. (2022). Short-term profits and long-term consequences: Did Jack Welch break capitalism? NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/06/01/1101505691/short-term-profits-and-long-term-consequences-did-jack-welch-break-capitalism 
  4. Reference for Business. (n.d.). Jack Welch: 1935—: Business executive. https://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/S-Z/Welch-Jack-1935.html 
  5. Jackson, T. Hill, A. Jack Welch, leader who embodied the cult of CEO, 1935-2020. (2020). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.ft.com/content/f304d8f8-07c0-11ea-9afa-d9e2401fa7ca
  6. Gellman, L. (2016, June 14). Jack Welch on his first job as a Caddie. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from
  7. Salem News. (2015). Jack Welch: Salem High School, 1953. https://www.salemnews.com/sports/jack-welch-salem-high-school-1953/article_0a3f3ae2-3a14-11e5-a8dc-4b7ecfadaa4a.html 
  8. University of Massachusetts Amherst. (n.d.). Jack Welch. https://www.umass.edu/gateway/feature/jack-welch 
  9. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. (n.d.). Jack Welch. https://grainger.illinois.edu/alumni/distinguished/15077 
  10. Investopedia. (2021). Jack Welch. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/j/jack-welch.asp 
  11. Byrne, J. Bloomberg – Are you a robot?. (2023). Retrieved 21 March 2023, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/1998-06-07/how-jack-welch-runs-ge#xj4y7vzkg 
  12. Jack Welch 1935— Biography – Early life, early lessons, Leading ge. (2023). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/S-Z/Welch-Jack-1935.html 
  13. Slater, R. (1999). Jack Welch and the GE way: Management insights and leadership secrets of the legendary CEO. McGraw-Hill.
  14. Welch, J., & Byrne, J. A. (2001). Jack: Straight from the gut. Business Plus.
  15. Denning, S. (2013). What really happened to GE? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/08/07/what-really-happened-to-ge/?sh=2d1ea7ce774d 
  16. Bates, S. (2003). Forced Ranking. Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0603bates.aspx
  17. Lohr, S. (1995). The six sigma phenomenon. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/29/business/the-six-sigma-phenomenon.html 
  18. GE Reports. (2020). Jack Welch, the ultimate manager who oversaw GE’s rise to the most valuable company, dies at 84. GE News. https://www.ge.com/news/reports/jack-welch-the-ultimate-manager-who-oversaw-ges-rise-to-the-most-valuable-company-dies-at-84 
  19. Richter, P. (1985, December 12). General Electric will buy RCA for $6.28 billion. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-12-12-mn-16152-story.html
  20. Richter, Paul. (1986, February 13). GE may sell some RCA assets, analysts say. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-02-13-fi-23367-story.html
  21. Noked, N. Examining the Largest Golden Parachutes. (2012). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2012/02/26/examining-the-largest-golden-parachutes/ 
  22. Pfeffer, J. (2001). The end of the Jack Welch era at GE. Strategy+Business. https://www.strategy-business.com/article/17398?gko=76c2d 
  23. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). GE/Housatonic River site in New England. https://www.epa.gov/ge-housatonic 
  24. DePaulo, L. (2019, April 11). If you knew Suzy… – Nymag. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/features/5976/ 
  25. CNBC. (2020). Jack Welch, who led GE’s rapid expansion, has died at age 84. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/02/jack-welch-obit-ge.html 
  26. Thomas, L. (2006, November 02). On the road with Jack and Suzy. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/02/business/02welch.html
  27. Jack Welch Management Institute. (n.d.). About us.
  28. Bloomberg – Are you a robot?. (2023). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.bloomberg.com/press-releases/2019-11-21/the-princeton-review-names-jack-welch-management-institute-in-2020-list-of-top-25-online-mba-programs 
  29. Bryan, B. Trump is forming an economic advisory team with the CEOs of Disney, General Motors, JPMorgan, and more. (2023). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-strategic-and-policy-forum-includes-dimon-iger-schwarzman-2016-12 
  30. Vartan, S. (2020). Jack Welch’s personal life: Marriages, children, and homes. Heavy. https://heavy.com/news/2020/03/jack-welch-personal-life-marriages-children-homes/ 
  31. Babington, D. (1998). Jack Welch and wife settle divorce. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1998/04/25/jack-welch-and-wife-settle-divorce/d91d4e4a-60c9-476e-a6d0-6a12a6c2b6a0/ 
  32. Fabrikant, G. Welches Reach Divorce Settlement (Published 2003). (2003). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/04/business/welches-reach-divorce-settlement.html
  33. WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Suzy Wetlaufer, Jack Welch (Published 2004). (2004). Retrieved 20 March 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/25/style/weddings-celebrations-suzy-wetlaufer-jack-welch.html 
  34. Isidore, C. (2020). Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of General Electric, dies at 84. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/02/business/jack-welch-obituary/index.html 
  35. Welch, J. (2012). The GOP’s economic edge. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390444318104577587554108779646 
  36. Gandel, S. (2012). Jack Welch’s unemployment tweet: When CEOs go rogue. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2012/10/05/jack-welchs-unemployment-tweet-when-ceos-go-rogue/ 
  37. Rampell, C. (2012). Ex-GE CEO Jack Welch: ‘I was right about that strange jobs report’. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2012/11/06/ex-ge-ceo-jack-welch-i-was-right-about-that-strange-jobs-report/ 
  38. Rosenfeld, E. (2016, October 10). Jack Welch, John McCain yank political support as trump blasts ‘hypocrites’. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/08/jack-welch-withdraws-support-for-donald-trump-calls-for-new-gop-nominee.html 
  39. Welch, J. (2001). Quoted in: Welch, J., & Byrne, J. A. (2001). Jack: Straight from the gut. Business Plus.
  40. Welch, J. (2005). Quoted in: Krames, J. A. (2005). Jack Welch Speaks: Wit and wisdom from the world’s greatest business leader. John Wiley & Sons.
  41. Welch, J. (2007). Quoted in: Mead, W. R. (2007). Learning from the best: Lessons from award-winning superintendents. Corwin Press.
  42. Welch, J. (2010). Quoted in: Welch, J., & Welch, S. (2010). Winning: The ultimate business how-to book. HarperCollins 
  43. Welch, J. 3 Simple Steps to Take The Pulse of Your Company | Jack Welch MBA. (2015). Retrieved 21 March 2023, from https://jackwelch.strayer.edu/winning/three-ways-take-company-pulse/ 
  44. Welch, J., & Welch, S. (2018). The real life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to winning the game, building a team, and growing your career. London: Thorsons.
  45. Gelles, D. (2022). The Man Who Broke capitalism: How Jack Welch gutted the Heartland and crushed the soul of corporate America–and how to undo his legacy. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  46. Fortune Editors. (1999). Managers of the century. Fortune. https://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1999/11/22/269071/index.htm 
  47. Junior Achievement USA. (2005). Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame laureates. https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-usa/home

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