John F. Welch

Three years from retiring as CEO of the world's most profitable company, General Electric's JOHN F. WELCH shows no sign of flagging. After 17 years at the helm, Welch, 62, continues to move GE out of manufacturing and into higher-margin financial and business services. A push to boost quality--and a restructuring expected next year--will keep costs under pressure. The plan seems to work: '97 earnings should be up 12%, to $12.3 billion, while GE shares rose about 51%.