Making everything from aircraft engines to network television shows to light bulbs, General Electric (GE) is one of the world's 10 largest industrial firms, and the company with the highest market value in the U.S. Established in 1892 through a merger of the Thomson-Houston company and the Edison General Electric Company, GE was directed by the venerable inventor, Thomas Edison, for two years (from 1892 to 1894). The company soon ventured into appliances with its GE and Hotpoint labels and later moved into insurance, nuclear reactors, medical systems, and more. The company recently bought Lockheed Martin's medical imaging business and Marquette Medical Systems. GE became the first foreign company to break into Japan's life insurance market by teaming up with Toho Mutual Life Insurance Co. GE also owns GE Capital, the world's largest financial services company. This huge conglomerate has shifted with the times to stay on top of the global economy. In 1980, it made 85 percent of its revenue from products and 15 percent from services. In the year 2000, the company estimates that it will earn 25 percent of its revenues from products and 75 from services.
NBC -- squandering its Seinfeld lead?
While GE has ended its involvement in such products and services as radio, computers, and investment banking, one of its most visible properties -- NBC -- is now the most successful of the three major networks. However, the network has seen its ratings drop over the past year with the end of Seinfeld, one of the highest-rated sitcoms in television history, and the loss of NFL broadcast rights to rival CBS. NBC is attempting to counter with coverage of the Sydney Olympics and NASCAR. In a sign of the growing financial weakness consuming the broadcast industry, GE is aggressively looking to expand its cable presence, reportedly shopping around for a cable network. The company already owns MSNBC, a joint 24-hour news venture with Microsoft, and CNBC, its flagship business channel.
A bitter battle with the Environmental Protection Agency has tainted an otherwise spectacular fiscal 1998 performance. The company is waging a legal and public relations war with EPA officials over the cleanup of PCBs in Massachusetts and New York's Hudson River. Environmentalists claim that GE's PCB dumping made the fish in the Hudson poisonous to both humans and animals, decimating the area's perigrine falcon population, for example. Company executives, led by CEO Jack Welsh, hotly dispute EPA claims that PCBs are toxic to humans and argue that a forced cleanup could cost GE millions of dollars and lead to job losses. GE is using its plentiful campaign contributions to leverage its position in Congress which has delayed a ruling on whether GE has to pay for the cleanup of the rivers.
July of 1999 saw GE close a deal with Columbia/HCA Healthcare worth $1.5 billion. A few months later in November GE's CEO and Chairman, John Welch, announced that he would retire in 2001. Wall Street insiders had been speculating about Welch's retirement for some time. GE will form an executive search committee late in 2000 to replace Welch, who is generally regarded as the top and most successful executive in the country. The new CEO will have to deal with labor issues, as 40,000 unionized GE workers are planning a July 2000 strike over contract issues. Whoever replaces Welch will be in an enviable position though. GE was recently named the E-Business of the Year by InternetWeek and Fortune placed GE at the top of its list of "America's Most Admired Companies".
GE does B-to-B
In July 2000 GE Global Exchange Services joined up with Commerce One in a technology alliance that would power business-to-business exchanges. GE would provide software to execute online transactions, while Commerce One would provide technology to run exchanges. The alliance follows the formation of an Ariba-I2-IBM team, which has powered seven marketplaces since March.
Applicants can submit resumes to General Electric via e-mail, fax, or regular mail. E-mailed resumes should be pasted into the message box and not sent as attachments. GE's recruiting web page, located at www.ge.com/ibempa.18.htm, describes the company's wide variety of training programs and enables applicants to search current openings by location and/or business. The web page also has a more detailed list of contact addresses. GE says that it looks for self-confident, creative applicants who can "think around corners." (Applicants interested in finance careers at GE should consult the separate entry on GE Capital.)
General Electric attempts to operate as a "democracy" rather than a "monarchy" by emphasizing the "free exchange of ideas," "speedy decision making," and "straightforward, simplified operations." GE employees like the chance that they have to "interact with people on all levels of management" and say that the company prizes "individual initiative." While some employees complain of the "enormous bureaucracy," a "stuffy," "formal" atmosphere, and a work week that runs as high as 70 hours, others say that "working for such a heavyweight brand name" is its own reward.
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