Case | HBS Case Collection | June 1991 (Revised October 1991)

General Electric: Reg Jones and Jack Welch

by Francis Aguilar and Christopher A. Bartlett


When GE's retiring Reginald Jones turned the job of CEO over to Jack Welch on April 1, 1981, the Wall Street Journal reported that GE had "decided to replace a legend with a live wire." Some wondered if the young dynamo could fill the elder statesman's very large shoes. But Welch had a very powerful and well-articulated vision of where he wanted his company to go. By 1984, he had regrouped GE's sectors, redefined its core businesses, made massive investment and disinvestment decisions, changed the company's approach to planning, and drastically cut personnel. Despite a major recession in the world economy and flat sales, profits rose from $1.5 billion in 1980 to $2.3 billion in 1984. This case chronicles the evolution of GE through the 1970s and early 1980s, focusing particularly on the changes wrought by Reg Jones and the way in which Jack Welch took that heritage and reshaped it to fit the demands of a new decade.

Keywords: Management Teams; Business or Company Management; Change Management; Leading Change; Restructuring; Investment; Strategic Planning; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Management Succession;


Aguilar, Francis, and Christopher A. Bartlett. "General Electric: Reg Jones and Jack Welch." Harvard Business School Case 391-144, June 1991. (Revised October 1991.)