Industrials

Ex-GE vice chair Bob Wright remembers Jack Welch as a 'brilliant strategist' who played to win

Key Points
  • Bob Wright told CNBC on Monday that his former General Electric boss Jack Welch "clearly was one of the best CEOs of his time."
  • Wright, who formerly served as vice chairman of GE and CEO of NBC, was remembering Welch, who died at 84 on Sunday.
  • "He was demanding, exciting, a brilliant strategist and a man of the highest level of energy," said Wright
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Former GE vice chairman Robert Wright on the life and leadership of Jack Welch

Bob Wright told CNBC on Monday that his former General Electric boss Jack Welch "clearly was one of the best CEOs of his time."

Wright, who served as vice chairman of GE, was remembering Welch, who died at 84 on Sunday.

"He was demanding, exciting, a brilliant strategist and a man of the highest level of energy," said Wright, who was also CEO of NBC from 1986 to 2007. GE owned the network during that period. (Comcast bought 51% of NBCUniversal from GE in 2011 and then the rest of the media and parks giant two years later.)

Wright, who worked for Welch for 20 years, said on "Squawk Alley" that he got the chance to observe him up close as he "radically" changed GE as chairman and CEO for two decades.

Welch grew GE from a stock market value in 1981 of $12 billion to $410 billion at its height. However, after he retired in 2001, the company fell on tough times.

Current GE Chairman and CEO Larry Culp, who took the helm in October 2018, is trying to right the ship. The market cap of the stock is now under $100 billion.

Culp told CNBC earlier on "Squawk on the Street" that Welch's "memory and his influence certainly loom very large for us" at the company to this day. He added, "The greatest tribute we can pay Jack going forward … is to continue to strengthen this company with an eye toward winning."

Wright talked about Welch's drive to win, saying he set big goals and wanted to quickly initiate change. Part of Welch's strategy included cutting tens of thousands of jobs, earning him the nickname "Neutron Jack," which he despised.

"That was a lot of pressure on the organization, but those of us that lived through it were better for it," Wright said.

Welch also pushed GE to adapt to current technologies and hated being left behind, said Wright, who cited Amazon as an example of a company that dominates in the kind way that Welch aimed to do in the industries GE competed in.

While suffering from health issues over the last few years, Welch did so without complaint, recalled Wright. "We will all remember Jack in his very best days because he was such a dynamo."

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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He was 'the heart and soul' of this company—GE CEO Larry Culp remembers Jack Welch