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  • The Man Who Broke Capitalism

  • How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy
  • By: David Gelles
  • Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
  • Length: 9 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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The Man Who Broke Capitalism

By: David Gelles
Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Bestseller

New York Times reporter and “Corner Office” columnist David Gelles reveals legendary GE CEO Jack Welch to be the root of all that’s wrong with capitalism today and offers advice on how we might right those wrongs.

In 1981, Jack Welch took over General Electric and quickly rose to fame as the first celebrity CEO. He golfed with presidents, mingled with movie stars, and was idolized for growing GE into the most valuable company in the world. But Welch’s achievements didn’t stem from some greater intelligence or business prowess. Rather, they were the result of a sustained effort to push GE’s stock price ever higher, often at the expense of workers, consumers, and innovation. In this captivating, revelatory book, David Gelles argues that Welch single-handedly ushered in a new, cutthroat era of American capitalism that continues to this day.

Gelles chronicles Welch’s campaign to vaporize hundreds of thousands of jobs in a bid to boost profits, eviscerating the country’s manufacturing base, and destabilizing the middle class. Welch’s obsession with downsizing—he eliminated 10% of employees every year—fundamentally altered GE and inspired generations of imitators who have employed his strategies at other companies around the globe. In his day, Welch was corporate America’s leading proponent of mergers and acquisitions, using deals to gobble up competitors and giving rise to an economy that is more concentrated and less dynamic. And Welch pioneered the dark arts of “financialization,” transforming GE from an admired industrial manufacturer into what was effectively an unregulated bank. The finance business was hugely profitable in the short term and helped Welch keep GE’s stock price ticking up. But ultimately, financialization undermined GE and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies.

Gelles shows how Welch’s celebrated emphasis on increasing shareholder value by any means necessary (layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring, acquisitions, and buybacks, to name but a few tactics) became the norm in American business generally. He demonstrates how that approach has led to the greatest socioeconomic inequality since the Great Depression and harmed many of the very companies that have embraced it. And he shows how a generation of Welch acolytes radically transformed companies like Boeing, Home Depot, Kraft Heinz, and more. Finally, Gelles chronicles the change that is now afoot in corporate America, highlighting companies and leaders who have abandoned Welchism and are proving that it is still possible to excel in the business world without destroying livelihoods, gutting communities, and spurning regulation.

©2022 David Gelles. All rights reserved (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Eye opening

The world needs to read/listen this book as it shows how greed has become normalized

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The emperor wore no clothes

Having worked for and been fired by GE Healthcare, I know this story too well. Vainly fighting against short-term targets that were leading our business unit into failure was a losing battle under the greatest CEO in the world, This history has been a vindication, GE overpaid for a business, In a market that it didn't understand, then mismanaged the business into the ground.
That Immelt was such a failure should have surprised nobody in GE Healthcare for his time as leader.
Good telling of a story of a con man.

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Compelling argument on the demise of corporations

While some historians may criticize the historical framework, I found the arguments compelling and informative.

Reading responses to this book I saw some made some criticisms of it as being too reliant of the great man theory of history, which may be true in parts, overall I found the detailed look at Jack Welsh's impact on corporations worldwide both richly detailed and well structured.

Whether Neutron Jack is responsible for or a symptom of governmental deregulation, corporate profiteering and the ultimate destruction of some of America's most innovative companies, it's clear that his influence on our perception of CEOs and their role changed the world.

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Great insights but a little cartoonish

The book does a great job of describing the motivations and context that have shaped the modern corporate world. Insights into the appeal of M&A, financial engineering and shareholder expectations are excellent. This sets a good basis for a cold eyed review of Jack Welch’s impact, but the critique stretches its own credibility by seemingly linking all the worlds ill’s at his feet (rather than a key player amongst many). Disappointingly, the closing chapters also discuss the ESG movement with starry eyed optimism. This lack of skepticism means the movement is presented as a solution to ‘Welshism’ but the discussion lacks nuance as it doesn’t acknowledge problematic definitions and distortions.

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