Welch’s Legacy Welch is widely credited with transforming a company best known for light bulbs and appliances into an empire that includes the television network NBC. He shook up GE’s management structure and sold major divisions including the housewares, air conditioning and semiconductor businesses.
In his 20 years as chairman, profits have risen from $1.6 billion to $10.7 billion in 1999, when GE had revenue of $110.8 billion.
The Fairfield-based GE is also the world’s largest company in terms of market capitalization, worth about $490 billion at the close of trading Friday.
However, analysts say the complex industrial conglomerate Immelt inherits from Welch is about to get more complicated.
Immelt’s first order of business is absorbing GE’s latest acquisition, Honeywell International, which was purchased in October for $45 billion in stock.
Among the reservations Honeywell executives had about the merger was the issue of Welch’s departure; Welch had initially planned to leave this year after turning 65, but put that off until the end of 2001. His announcement that he would stay an extra year eased the reservations of Honeywell executives and helped to seal the deal.
ABCNEWS’ Betsy Stark contributed to this report.