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The Man Who Broke Capitalism

Author David Gelles joins the show to discuss his new book The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America―and How to Undo His Legacy.

During the 1980s the GE “We Bring Good Things to Life” ads were ubiquitous. But so too was the presence of GE products in American lives. They made the refrigerators and cooking appliances in our homes, the airplane and locomotive engines that transported people and goods, the lights that illuminated the night, the plastics that surrounded us and medical equipment that prolonged our lives. The company founded by Thomas Edison in 1892 was a centerpiece of American technological innovation. And it was a place known for company loyalty - once you got a job at GE you could expect to work there until you retired.

But in in 1981, a new day dawned at GE when Jack Welch became the CEO. The first of the modern CEO celebrities, Welch set out to make GE the most valuable company in the world. And he was able to consistently increase stock value and found himself lionized in the business press and by the business academic community.

But the way Welch achieved his objectives, his techniques of downsizing, off shoring, reliance on finance and accounting tricks ultimately led to the GE of today—a shadow of its former self.

The Welch story in set out in compelling detail in a new book by New York Times reporter David Gelles entitled, “The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America- and How to Undo His Legacy.

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KPCW co-host and producer of Mountain Money
Mountain Money co-host, Local News Hour fill-in host and former board chair.