Jack Welch and the business media
by Chris Roush
Tom O’Boyle of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who wrote a book about former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, writes about Welch’s relationship with the business press.
O’Boyle writes, “Although Jack Welch was the epitome of the modern celebrity CEO, his greatest genius wasn’t in reading a balance sheet or executing a business strategy, but rather in his preternatural understanding of raw power. He knew how to ingratiate as well as intimidate the media — to squelch, kill or chill unflattering portrayals of him. That meant rewarding allies and punishing potential adversaries.
“During the six years I researched and wrote a book about Mr. Welch back in the 1990s, his high-powered legal team threatened to sue me and my publisher (Alfred Knopf) no less than a dozen times, though they never did. My offense: having the audacity to question the well-spun Welch myth, which publications like Fortune, Business Week and even my own Wall Street Journal were all too willing to convey.
“At the same time, Mr. Welch courted allies with great zeal, among them Fortune. Little wonder then that when the magazine gave out its millennial awards back in 2000, none other than Jack Welch was declared ‘Manager of the Century.’ No, not men like Henry Ford or either of the Watsons of IBM fame, who would have been obvious and logical choices.
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