John Francis "Jack" Welch, Jr. (born November 19, 1935) is an American retired business executive, author, and chemical engineer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. During his tenure at GE, the company's value rose 4,000%. In 2006, Welch's net worth was estimated at $720 million. When he retired from GE he received a severance payment of $417 million, the largest such payment in history.
Jack Welch was born in Peabody, Massachusetts, the son of Grace (Andrews), a homemaker, and John Francis Welch, Senior, a Boston & Maine Railroad conductor. Jack is Irish American and Roman Catholic. His paternal and maternal grandparents were Irish.
Throughout his early life in middle school and high school, Jack found work in the summers as a golf caddie, newspaper delivery boy, shoe salesman, and drill press operator. Welch attended Salem High School, where he participated in baseball, football, and captained the hockey team.
Late in his senior year, Welch was accepted to University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied chemical engineering. Welch worked in chemical engineering at Sunoco and PPG Industries during his college summers. In his sophomore year, he became a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. Welch graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering, turning down offers from several companies in order to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1960 with a Master's degree and a PhD in chemical engineering.
In 1986, GE acquired RCA. RCA's corporate headquarters were located in Rockefeller Center; Welch subsequently took up an office in the now GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The RCA acquisition resulted in GE selling off RCA properties to other companies and keeping NBC as part of the GE portfolio of businesses. During the 1990s, Welch shifted GE's business from manufacturing to financial services through numerous acquisitions.
Welch adopted Motorola's Six Sigma quality program in late 1995. In 1980, the year before Welch became CEO, GE recorded revenues of roughly $26.8 billion. By 1999 he was named "Manager of the Century" by Fortune magazine.
There was a lengthy and publicized succession planning saga prior to his retirement among James McNerney, Robert Nardelli, and Jeffrey Immelt, with Immelt eventually selected to succeed Welch as chairman and CEO. Nardelli became the CEO of Home Depot until his resignation in early 2007, and until recently, was the CEO of Chrysler, while McNerney became CEO of 3M until he left that post to serve in the same capacity at Boeing.
Welch's "walk-away" package from GE was not valued at the time of his retirement, but GMI Ratings estimates its worth at $420 million.
He served as Chairman of The Business Council in 1991 and 1992.
Image By Hamilton83 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons