The Rise and Fall of the General Electric Empire

In April of 1981, Jack Welch became the eighth CEO in the history of the General Electric Company. In 1980, the year before Welch took the reins at GE, the company generated $25 billion in sales, $1.5 billion in profits, and paid out $670 million in dividends to its investors.

The largest profit center for the company that year was the consumer products and service division, which manufactured appliances, air-conditioning equipment, lighting, and housewares. This segment also included the General Electric Credit Corporation. This nonconsolidated business, which was the forerunner to GE Capital, produced $115 million in profits and had $9 billion in assets. General Electric’s operating ...

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