Jack Welch obituary

Chairman and chief executive of General Electric with a fearsome reputation who set the trend for ‘downsizing’

Jack Welch, who has died aged 84, was a titan of US industry in the last quarter of the 20th century. As chairman and chief executive of General Electric (GE) for 20 years from 1981, he gained worldwide respect in the business world as a manager and leader of one of the most successful industrial companies of the era.

His prowess at reducing employee numbers attracted the nickname “Neutron Jack”, referring to the neutron bomb, which would wipe out people but leave property unharmed. His example set the trend for the “downsizing” that swept through the business world on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1980s and 90s. It also created a goldmine for shareholders – by the time he retired in 2001 GE shares were worth more than 30 times what they had been when he took up the reins.

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