General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States. The company operates through five segments: Energy, Technology Infrastructure, NBC Universal, Capital Finance and Consumer & Industrial. In 2011, Forbes ranked GE as the world's third largest company after JPMorgan Chase and HSBC, based on a formula that compared the total sales, profits, assets and market value of several multinational companies. The company has 287,000 employees around the world.
By 1890, Thomas Edison had brought together several of his business interests under one corporation to form Edison General Electric. At about the same time, Thomson-Houston Electric Company, under the leadership of Charles Coffin, gained access to a number of key patents through the acquisition of a number of competitors. Subsequently, General Electric was formed by the 1892 merger of Edison General Electric of Schenectady, New York and Thomson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts and both plants remain in operation under the GE banner to this day. The company was incorporated in New York, with the Schenectady plant as headquarters for many years thereafter. Around the same time, General Electric's Canadian counterpart, Canadian General Electric, was formed.
In 1896, General Electric was one of the original 12 companies listed on the newly formed Dow Jones Industrial Average and still remains after 115 years, the only one remaining on the Dow (though it has not continuously been in the DOW index).
In 1911 the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA) was absorbed into General Electric's existing lighting business. GE then established its lighting division headquarters at Nela Park in East Cleveland, Ohio. Nela Park is still the headquarters for GE's lighting business. In 1935, GE was one of the top 30 companies traded at the London Stock Exchange.
GE's long history of working with turbines in the power generation field gave them the engineering know-how to move into the new field of aircraft turbosuperchargers. Led by Sanford Moss, GE introduced the first superchargers during World War I, and continued to develop them during the Interwar period. They became indispensable in the years immediately prior to World War II, and GE was the world leader in exhaust-driven supercharging when the war started. This experience, in turn, made GE a natural selection to develop the Whittle W.1 jet engine that was demonstrated in the United States in 1941. Although their early work with Whittle's designs was later handed to Allison Engine Company, GE Aviation emerged as one of the world's largest engine manufacturers, second only to the well-founded, and older, British company; Rolls-Royce plc, which led the way in innovative, reliable and efficient, high-performance, heavy-duty, jet engine design and manufacture.
In 2002 GE acquired the wind power assets of Enron during its bankruptcy proceedings. Enron Wind was the only surviving U.S. manufacturer of large wind turbines at the time, and GE increased engineering and supplies for the Wind Division and doubled the annual sales to $1.2 billion in 2003. It acquired ScanWind in 2009.
Some consumers boycotted GE light bulbs, refrigerators and other products in the 1980s and 1990s to protest GE’s role in nuclear weapons production.
GE was one of the eight major computer companies through all of the 1960s — with IBM, the largest, called "Snow White" followed by the "Seven Dwarfs": Burroughs, NCR, Control Data Corporation, Honeywell, RCA, UNIVAC and GE.
GE had an extensive line of general purpose and special purpose computers. Among them were the GE 200, GE 400, and GE 600 series general purpose computers, the GE 4010, GE 4020, and GE 4060 real time process control computers, the Datanet 30 and Datanet 355 message switching computers (Datanet 30 and 355 were also used as front end processors for GE mainframe computers).A Datanet 500 computer was designed, but never sold.
GE is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut. Its New York main offices are located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Rockefeller Center, known as the GE Building for the prominent GE logo on the roof. NBC's headquarters and main studios are also located in the building. Through its RCA subsidiary, it has been associated with the Center since its construction in the 1930s.
The company describes itself as composed of a number of primary business units or "businesses." Each unit is itself a vast enterprise, many of which would, even as a standalone company, rank in the Fortune 500. The list of GE businesses varies over time as the result of acquisitions, divestitures and reorganizations. GE's tax return is the largest return filed in the United States; the 2005 return was approximately 24,000 pages when printed out, and 237 megabytes when submitted electronically. The company also "spends more on U.S. lobbying than any other company."
In 2005 GE launched its "Ecomagination" initiative in an attempt to position itself as a "green" company. GE is currently one of the biggest players in the wind power industry, and it is also developing new environment-friendly products such as hybrid locomotives, desalination and water reuse solutions, and photovoltaic cells. The company "plans to build the largest solar-panel-making factory in the U.S.," and has set goals for its subsidiaries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
On May 21, 2007, GE announced it would sell its GE Plastics division to petrochemicals manufacturer SABIC for net proceeds of $11.6 billion. The transaction took place on August 31, 2007, and the company name changed to SABIC Innovative Plastics, with Brian Gladden as CEO.
Jeffrey Immelt is the current chairman of the board and chief executive officer of GE. He was selected by GE's Board of Directors in 2000 to replace John Francis Welch Jr. (Jack Welch) following his retirement. Previously, Immelt had headed GE's Medical Systems division (now GE Healthcare) as its President and CEO. He has been with GE since 1982 and is on the board of two non-profit organizations.
His tenure as the Chairman and CEO started at a time of crisis — he took over the role on September 7, 2001 four days before the terrorist attacks on the United States, which killed two employees and cost GE's insurance business $600 million — as well as having a direct effect on the company's Aircraft Engines sector. Immelt has also been selected as one of President Obama's financial advisors concerning the economic rescue plan.
CEO Jeffrey Immelt had a set of changes in the presentation of the brand commissioned in 2004, after he took the reins as chairman, to unify the diversified businesses of GE. The changes included a new corporate color palette, small modifications to the GE Logo, a new customized font (GE Inspira), and a new slogan, "imagination at work" replacing the longtime slogan "we bring good things to life", composed by David Lucas. The standard requires many headlines to be lowercased and adds visual "white space" to documents and advertising to promote an open and approachable company. The changes were designed by Wolff Olins and are used extensively on GE's marketing, literature and website.
Through these businesses, GE participates in a wide variety of markets including the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity (e.g. nuclear, gas and solar), lighting, industrial automation, medical imaging equipment, motors, railway locomotives, aircraft jet engines, and aviation services. It co-owns NBC Universal with Comcast. Through GE Commercial Finance, GE Consumer Finance, GE Equipment Services, and GE Insurance it offers a range of financial services as well. It has a presence in over 100 countries.
Since over half of GE's revenue is derived from financial services, it is arguably a financial company with a manufacturing arm. It is also one of the largest lenders in countries other than the United States, such as Japan. Even though the first wave of conglomerates (such as ITT Corporation, Ling-Temco-Vought, Tenneco, etc.) fell by the wayside by the mid-1980s, in the late 1990s, another wave (consisting of Westinghouse, Tyco, and others) tried and failed to emulate GE's success.
During the 2011 Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe it became public that the six reactors in the plant had been designed by General Electric and that critics had opposed GE's design as far back as 1972.
In March 2011, The New York Times reported that despite earning $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations, General Electric did not owe taxes in 2010. General Electric had a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. This same article also pointed out that despite their continually diminishing tax liability since the 1990's, GE has laid off one-fifth of their American workers since 2002.
GE was the focus of a 1991 short subject Academy Award-winning documentary, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment, that juxtaposed GE's rosy "We Bring Good Things To Life" commercials with the true stories of workers and neighbors whose lives have been affected by the company's activities involving nuclear weapons.
GE was defamed on March 14, 1998, during the TV Funhouse segment of Saturday Night Live entitled "Conspiracy Theory Rock." This segment aired only once and was subsequently pulled by NBC.
GE's corporate culture and management practices are frequently lampooned in the NBC television series 30 Rock. In the first season episode "The Rural Juror", character Jack Donaghy opens a complex organization chart that depicts the ownership structure of General Electric's subsidiaries. The chart reveals that NBC is a subsidiary of Sheinhardt Wig Company, and NBC in turn owns subsidiaries not related to broadcasting or entertainment production.