Welch, John F., Jr.

Welch, John F. (Frances), Jr. (“Jack”)

(1935–  ) electronics executive; born in Salem, Mass. He joined General Electric (GE) after earning his Ph.D. in chemical engineering (1960). Through his aggressive marketing of the company's plastics, materials, and consumer goods and services, he earned steady promotions (vice-president 1972, senior vice-president 1977–79, vice-chairman 1979–81) before becoming GE's youngest-ever chairman and CEO (1981). Regarded as a master of strategic planning, if a ruthless executive, he redefined GE's areas of concentration and mandated that the company be number one or two at everything it did. Enterprises that either fell outside the strategic orbit or failed to perform were sold. The result was 132,000 layoffs, 73 plant closings, and more than 200 sales of products or businesses, and a major acquisition—RCA (1985). He became one of the country's most respected and influential business leaders for transforming an industrial giant into a flexible, entrepreneurial organization.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.