General Electric Company History

3135 Easton Turnpike
Fairfield, Connecticut 06828-0001

Telephone: (203) 373-2211
Fax: (203) 373-3131

Public Company
Incorporated: 1892
Employees: 305,000
Sales: $134.19 billion (2003)
Stock Exchanges: New York Boston London Euronext Paris
Ticker Symbol: GE
NAIC: 325211 Plastics Material & Resin Manuf.; 325413 In-Vitro Diagnostic Substance Manuf.; 333415 Air-Conditioning & Warm Air Heating Equip. & Comm. & Industrial Refrigeration Equip. Manuf.; 333611 Turbine & Turbine Generator Set Units Manuf.; 334510 Electromedical & Electrotherapeutic Apparatus Manuf.; 334512 Automatic Environ. Control Manuf. for Residential, Comm., & Appl. Use; 334515 Instrument Manuf. for Measuring & Testing Electricity & Electrical Signals; 335110 Electric Lamp Bulb & Part Manuf.; 335121 Residential Electric Lighting Fixture Manuf.; 335122 Comm., Industrial, & Institutional Electric Lighting Fixture Manuf.; 335221 Household Cooking Appl. Manuf.; 335222 Household Refrig. & Home Freezer Manuf.; 335224 Household Laundry Equip. Manuf.; 335228 Other Major Household Appl. Manuf.; 335311 Power, Distribution, & Specialty Transformer Manuf.; 335312 Motor & Generator Manuf.; 335313 Switchgear & Switchboard Apparatus Manuf.; 335931 Current-Carrying Wiring Device Manuf.; 336321 Vehicular Lighting Equip. Manuf.; 336412 Aircraft Engines & Engine Parts Manuf.; 336510 Railroad Rolling Stock Manuf.; 512110 Motion Picture & Video Prod.; 512120 Motion Picture & Video Distribution; 515120 Television Broadcasting; 515210 Cable & Other Subscription Programming; 522110 Comm. Banking; 522210 Credit Card Issuing; 522220 Sales Financing; 522291 Consumer Lending; 522292 Real Estate Credit; 524130 Reinsurance Carriers; 532411 Comm. Air, Rail, & Water Trans. Equip. Rental & Leasing; 532420 Office Machinery & Equip. Rental & Leasing; 532490 Other Comm. & Industrial Machinery & Equip. Rental & Leasing; 541710 Research & Development in the Physical, Engineering, & Life Sciences; 713110 Amusement & Theme Parks

Company Perspectives:

GE has always been a multi-business company. Over the past 125 years, GE has swiftly evolved to seize new opportunities created by changes in technology and the economy. Today GE is building new platforms in industries and markets with above-GDP growth that provide opportunities to apply GE technology and management expertise to accelerate that growth.

Key Dates:

Thomas Edison establishes the Edison Electric Light Company.
Edison has, by this date, consolidated all of his companies under the name of the Edison General Electric Company.
Edison's company merges with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric Company (GE); company's stock begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Edison sells all his shares in the company, remaining a consultant to GE.
GE establishes the first industrial laboratory in the United States.
Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a manufacturer of transformers, is acquired.
The first GE major appliance, an electric range, is introduced.
GE merges with Pacific Electric Heating Company, maker of the Hotpoint iron, and Hughes Electric Heating Company, maker of an electric range; company forms Edison Electric Appliance Company to sell products under the GE and Hotpoint brands.
GE, AT&T, and Westinghouse form the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to develop radio technology.
GE exits from the utilities business following government antitrust action.
Company sells its holdings in RCA because of antitrust considerations.
GE introduces the fluorescent lamp.
General Electric Capital Corporation is established.
Under antitrust pressure, the company is forced to release its light bulb patents to other companies.
The U.S. Navy launches the submarine Seawolf, which is powered by a GE nuclear reactor.
GE receives a license from the Atomic Energy Commission to operate a nuclear power plant; an enormous appliance manufacturing site, Appliance Park, in Louisville, Kentucky, is completed.
The company pleads guilty to price fixing on electrical equipment and is fined nearly half a million dollars.
GE spends $2.2 billion to acquire Utah International, a major coal, copper, uranium, and iron miner and a producer of natural gas and oil.
John F. (Jack) Welch, Jr., becomes chairman and CEO.
Company acquires RCA, which includes the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), for $6.4 billion; Employers Reinsurance is also acquired for $1.1 billion, as well as an 80 percent stake in Kidder Peabody.
GE sells its own and RCA's television manufacturing businesses to the French company Thomson in exchange for Thomson's medical diagnostics business.
Company liquidates Kidder Peabody.
Revenues surpass $100 billion.
GE announces a $45 billion deal to take over Honeywell International Inc.
Honeywell deal is blocked by European Commission; Welch retires and is succeeded by Jeffrey R. Immelt; Heller Financial Inc., a global commercial finance company, is acquired for $5.3 billion.
NBC acquires Telemundo Communications Group Inc.
British health sciences firm Amersham plc is acquired for $9.5 billion; in $14 billion deal, GE buys Vivendi Universal Entertainment, which is combined with NBC to form NBC Universal.

Company History:

Further Reading:

  • Banks, Howard, "General Electric: Going with the Winners," Forbes, March 26, 1984, pp. 97+.
  • Berman, Dennis K., and Kathryn Kranhold, "GE to Pay $900 Million to Buy Bomb-Detection Firm InVision," Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2004, p. A6.
  • Bernstein, Aaron, Susan Jackson, and John Byrne, "Jack Cracks the Whip Again," Business Week, December 15, 1997, pp. 34-35.
  • Bongiorno, Lori, "Hot Damn, What a Year!," Business Week, March 6, 1995, pp. 98-100.
  • Brady, Diane, "The Education of Jeff Immelt," Business Week, April 29, 2002, pp. 80-84, 86-87.
  • ------, "How GE Locked Up That Boeing Order," Business Week, August 9, 1999, pp. 72, 74-75.
  • ------, "Will Jeff Immelt's New Push Pay Off for GE?," Business Week, October 13, 2003, pp. 94-96, 98.
  • Brady, Diane, and Kerry Capell, "GE Breaks the Mold to Spur Innovation," Business Week, April 26, 2004, p. 88.
  • Brown, Ken, and Kathryn Kranhold, "GE's Immelt Faces Hurdles After Acquisitions," Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2003, p. C1.
  • Byrne, John A., "'Jack': A Close-up Look at How America's #1 Manager Runs GE," Business Week, June 8, 1998, pp. 90-95, 98-99, 102, 104-06, 110-11.
  • Byrne, John A., and Jennifer Reingold, "Who Will Step into Jack Welch's Shoes?," Business Week, December 21, 1998, pp. 37-38.
  • Carley, William M., "Power Ranger: GE Taps Trains Chief in Effort to Shore Up Troubled Energy Unit," Wall Street Journal, May 6, 1996, pp. A1+.
  • Carlson, W. Bernard, Innovation As a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 377 p.
  • Colvin, Geoffrey, "The Ultimate Manager," Fortune, November 22, 1999, pp. 185-87.
  • "A Conversation with Roberto Goizueta and Jack Welch," Fortune, December 11, 1995, pp. 96-99, 102.
  • Cox, James A., A Century of Light, New York: Benjamin, 1979, 224 p.
  • Curran, John, "GE Capital: Jack Welch's Secret Weapon," Fortune, November 10, 1997, pp. 116-20, 124, 126, 130, 132, 134.
  • Deogun, Nikhil, and Matt Murray, "GE Capital to Acquire Heller Financial," Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2001, p. A3.
  • Doherty, Jacqueline, "Turning on the Lights," Barron's, February 24, 2003, pp. 19+.
  • Farrell, John, "GE Cuts Number in Layoff Plans," Capital District Business Review, October 31, 1994, p. 5.
  • Finn, Edwin A., Jr., "General Eclectic," Forbes, March 23, 1987, pp. 74+.
  • Freudenheim, Milt, "GE, Seeking to Spur Growth, Will Sell Many Insurance Assets," New York Times, November 19, 2003, p. C1.
  • Gapper, John, and Dan Roberts, "Man of the Year: Jeffrey Immelt," Financial Times, December 27, 2003, p. 11.
  • "GE Monkeys with Its Money Machine," Fortune, February 21, 1994, p. 81.
  • "GE: Not Recession Proof, but Recession Resistant," Forbes, March 15, 1975, p. 26.
  • "General Electric: The Financial Wizards Switch Back to Technology," Business Week, March 16, 1981, pp. 110+.
  • Grant, Linda, "GE's 'Smart Bomb' Strategy," Fortune, July 21, 1997, pp. 109-10.
  • Griffiths, Dave, "GE + RCA = A Powerhouse Defense Contractor," Business Week, January 27, 1986, pp. 116+.
  • Grover, Ronald, and Mark Landler, "NBC Is No Longer a Feather in GE's Cap," Business Week, June 3, 1991, pp. 88+.
  • Hammond, John Winthrop, Men and Volts: The Story of General Electric, Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1941, 436 p.
  • Harris, Marilyn A., et al., "Can Jack Welch Reinvent GE?," Business Week, June 30, 1986, pp. 62+.
  • "The Jack and Jeff Show Loses Its Lustre," Economist, May 4, 2002, pp. 57-59.
  • "Jack Welch's Lessons for Success," Fortune, January 25, 1993, p. 86.
  • Koenig, Peter, "If Europe's Dead, Why Is GE Investing Billions There?," Fortune, September 9, 1996, pp. 114-18.
  • Kranhold, Kathryn, "GE, amid Slow Growth, Streamlines," Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2003, p. A6.
  • ------, "With New Chief, GE Healthcare Breaks Tradition," Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2004, pp. B1, B10.
  • Kranhold, Kathryn, and Charles Fleming, "GE Agrees to Pay Aegon $5.4 Billion for Finance Units," Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2003, p. A3.
  • Laing, Jonathan R., "Riding into the Sunset: Can Jack Welch's Successor at General Electric Hope to Inherit His Magic Touch?," Barron's, February 15, 1999, pp. 23-24, 26-27.
  • Lunsford, J. Lynn, and Kathryn Kranhold, "GE, Rolls-Royce Gain Boeing Deal," Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2004, pp. A3, A12.
  • McClenahen, John S., "CEO of the Decade," Industry Week, November 15, 1999, p. 38.
  • Miller, John Anderson, Men and Volts at War: The Story of General Electric in World War II, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947, 272 p.
  • Mitchell, Russell, "Jack Welch: How Good a Manager?," Business Week, December 14, 1987, pp. 92+.
  • Moore, Pamela L., and Nanette Byrnes, "The Man Who Would Be Welch," Business Week, December 11, 2000, pp. 94-97.
  • Moore, Pamela L., et al., "GE-Honeywell: How Jack Stumbled," Business Week, April 16, 2001, p. 122.
  • Morrison, Ann M., "Trying to Bring GE to Life," Fortune, January 25, 1982, pp. 50+.
  • Murray, Matt, "GE Capital Is Split into Four Parts," Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2002, p. A3.
  • ------, "GE Chairman Sets His Departure Date for 2001: Successor Remains Unclear," Wall Street Journal, November 3, 1999, p. B12.
  • ------, "GE Whiz: For Welch's Successor, Filling Legend's Shoes Is Only One Challenge," Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2000, pp. A1+.
  • ------, "Last Conglomerate: Can House That Jack Built Stand When He Goes?," Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2000, pp. A1+.
  • ------, "Late to the Web, GE Now Views Internet As Key to New Growth," Wall Street Journal, June 22, 1999, p. B1.
  • Murray, Matt, et al., "Extended Tour: On Eve of Retirement, Jack Welch Decides to Stick Around a Bit," Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2000, pp. A1+.
  • Norman, James R., "General Electric Is Stalking Big Game Again," Business Week, March 16, 1987, pp. 112+.
  • O'Boyle, Thomas F., At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit, New York: Knopf, 1998, 449 p.
  • Pare, Terence P., "GE As a Service Company," Fortune, April 18, 1994, p. 16.
  • ------, "Jack Welch's Nightmare on Wall Street," Fortune, September 5, 1994, p. 40.
  • Peers, Martin, Bruce Orwall, and John Carreyrou, "It's Official: Vivendi, GE Make Deal," Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2003, p. A3.
  • Petre, Peter, "What Welch Has Wrought at GE," Fortune, July 7, 1986, pp. 42+.
  • Reich, Leonard S., "Lighting the Path to Profit: GE's Control of the Electric Lamp Industry, 1892-1941," Business History Review, summer 1992, pp. 305+.
  • Schatz, Ronald W., The Electrical Workers: A History of Labor at General Electric and Westinghouse, 1923-1960, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983, 279 p.
  • Sherman, Stratford P., "Inside the Mind of Jack Welch," Fortune, March 27, 1989, pp. 38+.
  • Silverman, Rachel Emma, "GE Goes Back to Future," Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2002, p. B1.
  • Slater, Robert, The New GE: How Jack Welch Revived an American Institution, Homewood, Ill.: Business One Irwin, 1993, 295 p.
  • Smart, Tim, "GE's Money Machine," Business Week, March 8, 1993, pp. 62+.
  • ------, "Jack Welch's Cyber-Czar," Business Week, August 5, 1996, pp. 82-83.
  • ------, "Jack Welch's Encore," Business Week, October 28, 1996, pp. 154-60.
  • ------, "Just Imagine If Times Were Good," Business Week, April 17, 1995, pp. 78-79.
  • Smart, Tim, Pete Engardio, and Geri Smith, "GE's Brave New World," Business Week, November 8, 1993, pp. 64+.
  • Stewart, Thomas A., "GE Keeps Those Ideas Coming," Fortune, August 12, 1991, pp. 40+.
  • ------, "See Jack. See Jack Run Europe," Fortune, September 27, 1999, pp. 124-27, 130, 132, 136.
  • Tichy, Noel M., and Stratford Sherman, Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will: How Jack Welch Is Making General Electric the World's Most Competitive Corporation, New York: Doubleday, 1993, 384 p.
  • Useem, Jerry, "It's All Yours, Jeff. Now What?," Fortune, September 17, 2001, pp. 64-68.
  • Vogel, Todd, "Big Changes Are Galvanizing General Electric," Business Week, December 18, 1989, pp. 100+.
  • Warner, Melanie, "Can GE Light Up the Market Again?," Fortune, November 11, 2002, pp. 108-10+.
  • Welch, Jack, with John A. Byrne, Jack: Straight from the Gut, New York: Warner, 2001, 479 p.
  • Wise, George, Willis R. Whitney, General Electric, and the Origins of U.S. Industrial Research, New York: Columbia University Press, 1985, 375 p.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.63. St. James Press, 2004.