Jack Welch: An Oral History

Former colleagues reminisce about the iron rule of General Electric's Jack Welch
Photograph by Kristen Ashburn/Contact Press

Since he retired as chief executive of General Electric in 2001, after two decades in the job, Jack Welch’s legacy has been the subject of heated debate. Under Welch, the company’s market value grew from $14 billion to $410 billion, and revenue multiplied fivefold to $130 billion. Yet his brutal management style was legendary. Each year he famously ranked employees and fired the bottom 10 percent. As retirement neared, he pitted three top executives against each other in a bake-off to determine who would be his successor. “You got to be rigorous in your appraisal system,” Welch told Diane Brady in an interview for this story. “The biggest cowards are managers who don’t let people know where they stand.” Brady talks with GE veterans—including Jim McNerney and Bob Nardelli, who lost out to Jeff Immelt in the race to succeed Welch—about what it was like to work for “Neutron Jack.”

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