Former GE Chief Executive Jack Welch says the lavish perks he received in retirement were legitimate but admits that they made him appear greedy.
FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Former General Electric Chief Executive Jack Welch says the lavish perks he received in retirement were legitimate but admits in an upcoming television interview that they made him appear greedy.
Amid a wave of corporate scandals, details of Welch’s perks emerged in court papers during his 2002 divorce from his wife of 13 years, Jane Beasley. He received millions of dollars in benefits, including unlimited personal use of GE’s planes, office space and financial services.
After the perks became public, Welch reimbursed the company for many of them and now pays for use of aircraft and other services.
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According to a transcript of a “60 Minutes Wednesday” interview with Dan Rather, Welch says he faced a dilemma when the perks sparked controversy.
“I got two choices. Give the money back, renounce the perk. Then, if I do that, I look like I did something wrong, [like] I shouldn’t have had it,” Welch said. “Or keep the perk; then, I look like a greedy pig.”
The interview is to be broadcast on CBS next week.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said last year that GE violated the law by failing to fully disclose to investors the many perks lavished on Welch. The benefits also included exclusive use of an $11 million apartment in New York City, a chauffeured limousine, a leased Mercedes, bodyguard security and security systems for his homes.
The SEC did not fine GE but won a promise from the company to fully disclose similar benefits in the future.
Welch, who retired in 2001, said his perks were disclosed, but not to the extent SEC said was necessary. The perks were part of an employment and retirement agreement Welch reached with GE in 1996.
Welch, 69, also discusses the romance with magazine editor Suzy Wetlaufer that led to the divorce. The couple, now married, are promoting a book together.
“We got the editor of the Harvard Business Review, America’s most prestigious sort of intellectual business magazine,” Welch said. “We got a well-known CEO who had received a lot of accolades from the most admired company with the highest market value, and the guy is married. He falls in love. He runs off with the woman. … If I was a journalist, I’d write a scandalous story. I mean, it’s a good story, but I don’t care. I fell in love.”
Suzy Welch, 45, recalling her first meeting with Welch for an interview, said she was intimidated by the man nicknamed “Neutron Jack” for firing thousands of GE employees.
“When I first met Jack, I was terrified of him. I wasn’t expecting a fun, laughing, enjoyable, exciting guy. I walked into his office like most people, with my knees knocking together. It’s fair to say sparks flew.”