Even giants have to retire. Jack Welch, one of the world's most high-profile execs, has finally set a date for stepping down as chairman and CEO of General Electric. Welch, who turns 64 in November, announced on Nov. 2 that he'll retire after the annual meeting in April, 2001. While that's a little later than many insiders expected, the official word of his departure already has people discussing his legacy. Pal Larry Bossidy, a GE veteran who's now chief executive of AlliedSignal, calls him the "management oracle of the past 50 years." That's not just hype. Welch has transformed GE from a $14 billion manufacturing power into a $99 billion conglomerate in everything from refrigerators to reinsurance since taking over in 1981. Contenders to fill his big shoes include Jeffrey Immelt, who heads GE Medical Systems, and James McNerney of GE Aircraft.

What will Welch do next? Work on his golf is a safe bet. But most Welch watchers figure he won't disappear from the business stage altogether.

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