Jack Welch, plastics pioneer and former General Electric CEO, dies at 84
Welch joined GE’s plastics division in 1960 and rose to become the industrial giant's president and CEO in 1981. He was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2006.
Jack Welch, a plastics industry veteran who was the chairman and CEO of industrial giant General Electric for two decades, died on March 1 at the age of 84.
Under Welch’s leadership beginning in the early 1980s, GE became the world’s second-most valuable company, after Microsoft, as Welch grew its market value from US$12 billion to US$410 billion.
Born in Salem, Mass., Welch joined GE’s plastics division as a chemical engineer in 1960, and managed the division and oversaw the development of materials, such as modified polyphenylene oxide (Noryl), a revolutionary and widely used engineering plastic. He was appointed as GE’s youngest vice president in 1972, and was named vice chairman in 1979. In 1981 Welch succeeded Reginald H. Jones as GE’s eighth chairman and CEO.
With Welch at the helm, GE bought and sold approximately 600 businesses, including RCA and Kidder Peabody. Welch was also known for his focus on efficiency and streamlining management.
Welch retired from GE in 2001 and became a business consultant, engaged in public speaking and TV appearances, including on CNBC, wrote a column and books, and opened a for-profit management institute. In 2017, he served on an economic advisory panel for the Trump Administration, along with CEOs from corporations including Tesla, JPMorgan Chase, General Motors, and Wal-Mart.
In 2006 Welch was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame. “During his career at GE, Welch was very supportive of a number of plastics industry initiatives, including the National Plastics Center and Museum, the Society of the Plastics Industry, and the National Plastics Exposition,” the Hall of Fame said.
Additionally, Welch was named Manager of the Century by Fortune magazine in 2000, and named Most Admired CEO in past 20 years by Chief Executive magazine readers in 2005.