Jack Welch: A Nantucket Legend.
Whoever coined the phrase “No one is irreplaceable” never met Jack Welch. The son of a railroad conductor who became the ultimate business icon, Jack Welch reached a level of admiration and reverence normally reserved for those in the highest echelons of medicine, arts or public service. Welch’s spirited style and famous penchant for directness were all his own and his personal impact on business life in America will be hard to replicate.
During his twenty years as CEO at GE, its market value grew from $12 billion to $410 billion. He was once called by Fortune Magazine, “The Manager of the Century” having raised the company’s revenues from $27 billion to $130 billion. Welch was a best-selling author with numerous books including Jack: Straight from the Gut and Winning.
Jack loved Nantucket and considered it his home away from home. He and his wife Suzy lived in their Siasconset home just a chip shot from the Nantucket Golf Club where he showcased his competitive spirit and considerable charm. In the business world he had earned the moniker Neutron Jack for his cost cutting at GE, but in the club house and on the greens, he became more famous for his impish smile, his refreshing candor and his kindness toward the staff.
Among the people at the Nantucket Golf Club who were close to Jack was COO Tommy Bresette. “What impressed me most about Jack was that he treated everyone who worked at the club with respect and kindness, from the dishwasher to the head pro.” Bresette added “He went out of his way to engage with the employees and find out who they were and what they were all about.”
I personally was first introduced to Jack Welch through our solicitation of him for a donation to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital which he generously supported. During that conversation, I took it as a high compliment when he said to me, “If I was still in charge at GE, I would hire you in sales.” Both my wife, Elisabeth and I gained a fondness for Jack and Suzy, who took us to lunch one day which was unbeknownst to them was Elisabeth’s birthday. To our great surprise and not having mentioned anything to either Jack or Suzy, a cake arrived after our meal. It was that kind of small touch from a very big person that we will never forget.
From 1979 until 2003, GE had an ad campaign that closed with a catchy jingle “GE brings good things to living and brings good things to life.” For those on Nantucket who had the chance to know Jack Welch, the tag-line mirrored Jack himself. On Nantucket and beyond, he will be deeply missed.