At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit

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9780375705670: At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit

"O'Boyle has researched and written a monumental book that should be mandatory reading for all CEOs and anyone concerned with business ethics." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Superb . . . a spirited study of General Electric, and of its sometimes brilliant, sometimes bungling, but always ruthless boss, Jack Welch."                               --Chicago Sun-Times

With convincing passion and meticulous research, Thomas F. O'Boyle explores the forces behind General Electric's rise to the top of Wall Street, questioning if GE, with chief executive officer Jack Welch at the helm, is still "bringing good things to life."        Welch--explosive, profit-hungry, and pragmatic--catapulted GE's stocks to the top, up 1,155 percent from 1982 to 1997. O'Boyle argues that these astounding results have come only with the heavy price of employees' lives, blighted under the tyranny of "Neutron Jack" Welch, so named for his bomb-like ability to eliminate staff without disturbing surrounding operations. During Welch's reign, hard-nosed success tactics--unblinking downsizing, ruthless acquisition negotiations, and the virtual abandonment of manufacturing in favor of the more glamorous entertainment and financial services industries--coexist with scandals like price-fixing, pollution, and defense contract fraud. Sure to spark controversy, this gripping, comprehensive account begs the greater question: Is Jack Welch's GE a model company for business in the next century, or is it time to change the way the world does business?

"Smoothly written and thoroughly researched." --USA Today

"This book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of corporate America. . . . Thomas F. O'Boyle persuades you that GE--Jack Welch's GE--brings bad things to life. In abundance."         --Washington Monthly

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Review:

No contemporary business leader has been so widely acclaimed as Jack Welch of General Electric. Welch's transformation of GE into one of America's most profitable and valuable companies has been chronicled already in several other books, most recently Jack Welch and the GE Way by Robert Slater. Now comes journalist Thomas F. O'Boyle to take Welch down a notch--or two or three. Where other books wholeheartedly endorse Welch's gung-ho style of leadership, At Any Cost finds much to abhor.

O'Boyle, an editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, holds Welch personally responsible for various scandals over the years at some of GE's multifarious appendages, from contract fraud in its defense business (later sold) to faked crash tests of GM trucks on Dateline NBC. Welch's single-minded devotion to winning drives his subordinates to cut corners, O'Boyle suggests, though the author offers little evidence to implicate Welch in these or other lapses by a few of GE's 276,000 employees.

O'Boyle is actually more interested in nailing Welch for many of America's social problems. He believes that mass layoffs at GE in the 1980s made downsizing fashionable. GE's success in enriching shareholders encouraged other corporations to curry favor with Wall Street while ignoring their impact on the rest of society. The results have been catastrophic for many families and communities. So even in good times, American workers are plagued by a sense of insecurity. O'Boyle implies that Welch's pernicious influence can be seen in the divorce rate and even in the paranoia that produced the bombing of the Tulsa federal building.

Yet O'Boyle is not a class warrior or know-nothing populist. He recognizes that the drive and ruthlessness of people like Jack Welch have saved America from the economic stagnation of a Germany or Japan. Thorough in its reporting and finely written, At Any Cost is a plea for a kinder and gentler corporate capitalism, one mindful of its social consequences. O'Boyle does not have all the answers, but he raises important questions. --Barry Mitzman

About the Author:

Thomas F. O'Boyle lives near Pittsburgh.

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