BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The former chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, has passed away from kidney failure at the age of 84.
His death was announced Monday morning by his wife, Suzy.
Welch was born in 1935 in Peabody, Mass. to Irish-American parents. His father was a Boston & Maine Railroad conductor, and his mother was a homemaker. Welch went on to study chemical engineering at UMass Amherst, and he received his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1960.
That same year, Welch joined GE at its plastics division in Pittsfield, Mass. as a chemical engineer. By 1972 he had become Vice President of GE. In 1979 he was dubbed Vice Chairman.
When he eventually took over at the helm of GE, Welch expanded the company into financial services and consulting. In 1981, at age 45, Welch succeeded Reginald H. Jones as Chairman and CEO. Within seven years, GE Capital Bank was founded. By 1999, Welch had earned the title "manager of the century" from Fortune magazine.
GE went on to acquire RCA, which at the time owned NBC. In his 2001 book Jack: Straight From The Gut, he explained how he invented the so-called "vitality curve," where managers were ranked into three groups. Welch said that system made it clear to him which employees were the "underperformers [who] generally had to go."
Over his two decades leading General Electric, Welch grew the company's market value from $12 billion to $410 billion. Welch retired in September 2001, days before the 9/11 attacks. Soon after his hand-picked successor took over, the company was removed from the blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average after 110 years. That led to a New York Times article that read; "It's always tough to follow a legend."
After leaving GE, Welch went on to become a business consultant. He spoke publicly on TV, wrote columns and books, and opened a for-profit management institute.
Jack Welch was 84 years old.