General Electric Company

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General Electric Company, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, is one of the world's largest and most successful businesses, currently employing about 300,000 people around the world. Familiarly known as GE, it was begun in 1890 by the noted inventor Thomas A. Edison as the Edison General Electric Company and changed its name to General Electric two years later. GE was originally known for its electrical products such as light bulbs, refrigerators, and power generators. Over the years it has branched out into many different fields, some through internal development and some by acquisition, so that in spite of its name it is now generally considered to be the world's best-managed and most successful conglomerate. As it moves to link itself more or more to growing trends in globalization, it is a leader in such diverse fields as medical imaging, jet engine techology, locomotive manufacture, television broadcasting, commercial airliner leasing, and commercial financing. Its revenues for 2006 were $163 billion[1] and generated nearly $21 billion in net profits. In terms of annual revenue, it is the 11th largest corporation in the world; it is, however, far behind the two leaders, Wal-Mart Stores and ExxonMobil, both of which had revenues in 2006 of around $350 billion.[2] For a period around 2000, when its stock price was considerably higher than it is today, General Electric was, in terms of the total market value of its outstanding shares, the most valuable company in the world, higher even than such companies as Microsoft or ExxonMobil.[3] It is the only one of the twelve companies that in 1896 first composed the Dow Jones Industrial Average to still be in today's index. It has richly rewarded its long-term stockholders by the steadily increasing value of its shares; it has also paid them quarterly dividends for more than a century, as well as increasing its annual dividend for the last 31 consecutive years.

The company has a tradition of keeping its chief executive officers in their position for a number of years; since its inception it has had barely a dozen leaders. For most of the 1940s two of the United States' most successful and most iconic companies, General Motors and General Electric, were directed by men of the same name. To distinguish them, Charles E. Wilson of GM was known as "Engine Charlie", while Charles E. Wilson of GE was known as "Electric Charlie". Another prominent leader, John F. (Jack) Welch, who led the company from 1981 through 2001, was frequently cited as the best chief executive in the United States or even the world.


  1. According to Fortune magazine, July 23, 2007, page 133, its revenues for 2006 were $168 billion
  2. Fortune magazine, July 23, 2007, page 133
  3. As of mid-June, 2007, among the approximately 2,000 companies followed by Value Line, it is second in market capitalization to ExxonMobil, $384 billion to $475 billion. The next three largest companies are Microsoft, Citigroup, and AT&T. Source: Value Line Selection & Opinion, The 30 Largest Market Capitalizations, June 15, 2007, page 4680.