Book Review | Lights Out: Pride, Delusion and the Fall of General Electric by Tedd Mann & Thomas Gryta
January 12, 2021
By Robert Miller | Portfolio Manager at NAOS Asset Management
General Electric (GE), an iconic global company with its roots from the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, was formed back in 1892 through a merger of Edison General Electric Company & Thomson-Houston Electric Company. It was one of the original 12 companies listed on the Dow Jones. From its origins in power generation, as you would expect from a 120+ year old company, there have been many twists, turns, acquisitions & divestments along the way including branching into areas such as computing, space, finance, media and oil & gas.
Lights Out, a book authored by two Wall Street Journal investigative journalists explore what went wrong for this massive corporation. Jack Welch was the iconic CEO of GE from 1981 to 2001. Under his leadership GE made approximately 600 acquisitions and its market cap increased over 30x. Jeff Immelt came after Welch. The two CEOs were focused on different parts of the business and Immelt was very focused on carving his own path.
Under Immelt, the need to meet very lofty Wall Street expectations, plus a need for significant reinvestment in the business was a very tough combination to manage. The culture of the business was highly questionable and that led them down a very dangerous path that ultimately led to a disaster in its GE Capital division in the GFC. The reporting in this book uncovers some of the deepest secrets within this famed company and is a great case study on Corporate America.