[FOUNTAIN]Jack's world

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[FOUNTAIN]Jack's world

Jack Welch, 66, the retired mogul who captained General Electric, published his autobiography titled "Jack: Straight From the Gut" following his retirement last September. In a reference to the way businesses should operate, Mr. Welch wrote that even in the trendiest restaurant, food being cooked in the kitchen never looks as good as it does on the table.

Mr. Welch's remark summarizes well his days at the helm of General Electric. Upon assuming the top position at GE in 1981, he pushed ahead with his competitiveness-enhancing measures: restructuring and downsizing. He earned the nickname "Neutron Jack" from Newsweek magazine in 1982, and was called "The most ruthless businessman in the United States" by Fortune magazine in 1984.

During his first five years as CEO, he laid off 80,000 workers, or one-fifth of the staff at GE.

Thanks to his relentless efforts, GE's business rose to full bloom by the beginning of the 1990s. Market capitalization of GE made the company the 10th largest corporation in the United States when he took office. By 1993, GE had joined the ranks of the world's leading firms, recording more than $80 billion.

Mr. Welch was named the greatest businessman of the 20th century by the Academy of Management. He also made a personal fortune. He was paid $15,000 during his first year at GE, and that salary ballooned to $16 million last year, his 41st with the company. His total wealth amounted to $680 million in 2001, which made him the 376th wealthiest person in the United States.

His married life was not as successful as his business career. He had four children with his first wife, whom he married the year before he joined GE. He was recently asked for a divorce from Jane, his second wife of 13 years, after admitting an affair with Suzy Wetlaufer, 42, an editor at the Harvard Business Review.

Jane Welch, an attorney 17 years younger than Mr. Welch, was his golfing companion and a sort of mentor who introduced her husband to the world of the Internet.

In his autobiography, Mr. Welch called Jane a "perfect partner." Jane's divorce settlement may amount to 500 billion won ($378 million), which surely will be a magnet to draw people's attention as their legal dispute unfolds.

Mr. Welch writes that excellence and competitiveness can go together with integrity. Would his excellence as a businessman be able to coexist with his immorality as a husband?

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Welch deals with this scandal.



The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Sohn Byoung-soo

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