Lights Out

Thomas Gryta , Ted Mann

Lights Out



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Ever since it was founded, in 1892, General Electric has always been much more than just a company. For generations, the United States' first power and electrical equipment company was synonymous with job security, and with solid, safe investment. Under the direction of Jack Welch, and with an evaluation of $600 billion, GE had established itself as America's most valuable company, across multiple sectors, ranging from media to plastics, from aerospace to energy, and finally to digital and financial services. Yet, following Welch's departure, everything began to fall apart. Lights Out is the story of General Electric's epic decline, and a text-book case of the mismanagement of an extremely complex company. 

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Analysis and key concepts


The rapid fall of America's most valuable company: a prime example of corporate mismanagement


“Neutron” Jack Welch’s approach: short-term success, guaranteed long-term failure


The hot potato called GE Capital: the bank woven into the corporate fabric


Jeff Immelt’s debut, and the weighty legacy left by Welch


John Flannery, the finance expert who unearthed years of dysfunctional practices




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Help business leaders and investors to understand what went wrong in General Electric, and to avoid making the same mistakes. 
  • Recognise how even the most powerful companies can quickly crumble if they are not managed properly. 
  • Understand how it is often difficult to understand from the outside the true inner workings of some large companies.

Thomas Gryta writes about General Electric for the Wall Street Journal. In the past, he covered the telecommunications industry for theJournal, and was a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University. As a journalist, he has also covered the biotechnology sector, and has held general news reporting and copyediting positions. Gryta studied history at the University of Massachusetts, and spent a year studying in Germany. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children.

Ted Mann is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal's Washington Bureau, as part of a team covering business and government. He was the specialist reporter who followed General Electric and other industrial conglomerates for the Journal’s corporate bureau in New York from 2014 to 2017, and previously covered transportation for the Greater New York section, where he exposed the George Washington Bridge scandal involving former Governor Chris Christie. He is a graduate of New York University.

Publishing house:

Mariner Books