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The General Electric Company, or GE ( ), is a multinational Americanmarker technology and service conglomerate incorporated in the State of New York. In 2009, Forbes ranked GE as the world's largest company. The company has 323,000 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 Company, under the leadership of Charles A. 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 and Thomson-Houston Company.

Public company

In 1896, General Electric was one of the original 12 companies listed on the newly-formed Dow Jones Industrial Average and still remains after years, the only one remaining on the Dow (though it has not continuously been in the DOW index).
23 Ton diesel electric locomotive made at the General Electric Corp. plant in Schenectady, N.Y.
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 Parkmarker in East Cleveland, Ohiomarker. Nela Park is still the headquarters for GE's lighting business.


The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was founded by GE in 1919 to further international radio. RCA would quickly grow into an industrial giant of its own.

Power generation

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 WWI, and continued to develop them during the Interwar period. They became indispensable in the years immediately prior to WWII, 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 US 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, who led the way in innovative, reliable, and efficient highperformance heavy duty jet engine design and manufacture.


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, and the Datanet 30 message switching computer. A Datanet 600 computer was designed, but never sold. It has been said that GE got into computer manufacturing because in the 1950s they were the largest user of computers outside of the United States federal government. In 1970 GE sold its computer division to Honeywell. This group, including Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data Corporation and Honeywell, were usually, within the industry itself, referred to as the "BUNCH", not as the "Seven Dwarfs".


In 1986 GE reacquired RCA, primarily for the NBC television network. The remainder was sold to various companies, including Bertelsmannmarker and Thomson SA.

In 2002 Francisco Partners and Norwest Venture Partners acquired a division of GE called GE Information Systems (GEIS). The new company, named GXS, is based in Gaithersburg, MDmarker. GXS is a leading provider of B2B e-Commerce solutions. GE maintains a minority ownership position in GXS.

In 2004 GE bought Vivendi's television and movie assets, becoming the third largest media conglomerate in the world. The new company was named NBC Universal. Also in 2004 GE completed the spin-off of most of its mortgage and life insurance assets into an independent company, Genworth Financial, based in Richmond, Virginiamarker.

Genpact formerly known as GE Capital International Services (GECIS) was established by GE in late 1997 as its captive India based BPO. GE sold 60% stake in Genpact to General Atlantic and Oak Hill Capital Partners in 2005 and hived off Genpact into an independent business. GE is still a major client to Genpact getting its services in customer service, finance, information technology and analytics.

In May 2008, GE announced it was exploring options for divesting the bulk of its Consumer and Industrial business.

For a complete list of acquisitions and divestitures, see General Electric timeline.

General Electric's Schenectady, New Yorkmarker facilities (including GE's original headquarters) are assigned the ZIP code 12345. (All Schenectady ZIP codes begin with 123, but no others begin with 1234.)

Corporate affairs

GE is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticutmarker. Its New York main offices are located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Rockefeller Centermarker, known as the GE Buildingmarker 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.

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 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.


GE has the fourth most recognized brand in the world, worth almost $49 billion.

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.

The value of the brand is reinforced by ownership of two letter domain Among the millions of domain names that exist today is the 20th domain to have been registered on August 5, 1986. GE is one of the few corporations worldwide to own a two letter domain name. The brand is also reflected by the GE New York Stock Exchangemarker ticker symbol.


GE's divisions include GE Capital (including GE Commercial Finance and GE Money and GE Consumer Finance), GE Technology Infrastructure (including GE Aviation,the former Smiths Aerospace and GE Healthcare), GE Energy Infrastructure (including GE Energy Financial Services), GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms and NBC Universal, an entertainment company.

Through these businesses, GE participates in a wide variety of markets including the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity (eg. Nuclear, gas and solar), lighting, industrial automation, medical imaging equipment, motor, railway locomotives, aircraft jet engines, and aviation services. It co-founded and is 80% owner (with Vivendi) of NBC Universal, the National Broadcasting Company. 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 Japanmarker. 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.

It was announced on May 4, 2008 that GE would auction off its appliances business for an expected sale of $5–8 billion. GE appliance brands in the United States include: GE, GE Profile, GE Cafe, Monogram and Hotpoint.

The Finnishmarker RFI filter firm DICRO Oy was founded in 1987 and bought out an older rival RFI filter firm named GE Procond Oy on February 13, 2006, which was renamed to Procond Oy and until then part of GE, but now may be sold off too.

Corporate recognition

In 2004, GE was named number one company for employers and employees on the Forbes 500 Global Player list.

Over the years GE has received several awards honoring them for their accomplishments, values and reputation:

  • In Fortune Magazine's 2005 "Global Most Admired Companies" list, GE ranked first overall. (February 2005)
  • In Fortune Magazine's 2006 "America's Most Admired Companies" list, GE ranked first overall. (March 2006)
  • GE was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index as one of the world's leaders in environmental, social and economic programs.
  • GE ranked ninth on Fortune Magazine's "50 Most Desirable MBA Employers" list. (April 2004)

Environmental record

GE has a history of large-scale air and water pollution. Based on year 2000 data, researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute listed the corporation as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year (2,000 Tonnes) of toxic chemicals released into the air. GE has also been implicated in the creation of toxic waste. According to EPA documents, only the United States Government, Honeywell, and Chevron Corporation are responsible for producing more Superfund toxic waste sites.

In 1983, New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York to compel GE to pay for the cleanup of what was claimed to be more than 100,000 tons of chemicals dumped (legally, at the time) from their plant in Waterford. In 1999, the company agreed to pay a $250 million settlement in connection with claims it polluted the Housatonic River and other sites with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous substances.

From approximately 1947 to 1977, GE discharged as much as 1.3 million pounds of PCB from its capacitor manufacturing plants at the Hudson Fallsmarker and Fort Edwardmarker facilities into the Hudson River. Spending millions over many years, GE fought a media and political battle to avoid cleaning up the river: GE attacked the Superfund law in court, and launched an extensive media campaign to refute the benefits of cleaning up the river, claiming that dredging the river would actually stir up PCBs. In 2002, GE was ordered to clean up a stretch of the Hudson River it had contaminated.

In 2003, acting on concerns that the plan proposed by GE did not "provide for adequate protection of public health and the environment," the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a unilateral administrative order for the company to "address cleanup at the GE site" in Rome, Georgiamarker, also contaminated with PCBs.

Environmental initiatives

In May 2005 GE announced the launch of a program called "Ecomagination," intended, in the words of CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt "to develop tomorrow’s solutions such as solar energy, hybrid locomotives, fuel cells, lower-emission aircraft engines, lighter and stronger durable materials, efficient lighting, and water purification technology,” prompting the The New York Times to observe that, "while General Electric's increased emphasis on clean technology will probably result in improved products and benefit its bottom line, Mr. Immelt's credibility as a spokesman on national environmental policy is fatally flawed because of his company's intransigence in cleaning up its own toxic legacy."

GE has said that it will invest $1.4bn in cleantech research and development in 2008 as part of its Ecomagination initiative. As of October 2008, the scheme had resulted in 70 green products being brought to market, ranging from halogen lamps to biogas engines. In 2007, GE raised the annual revenue target for its Ecomagination initiative from $20bn in 2010 to $25bn following positive market response to its new product lines.

GE Energy’s renewable energy business has expanded greatly, to keep up with growing U.S. and global demand for clean energy. Since entering the renewable energy industry in 2002, GE has invested more than $850 million in renewable energy technology. In 2009, GE’s renewable energy initiatives, which include solar power, wind power and GE Jenbacher gas engines using renewable and non-renewable methane-based gases, employ more than 4,900 people globally and have created more than 10,000 supporting jobs.

GE Energy and Orion New Zealand Limited (Orion) have announced implementation of the first phase of a GE network management system to help improve power reliability for customers. GE’s ENMAC Distribution Management System is the foundation of Orion’s initiative. The system of smart grid technologies will significantly improve the network company’s ability to manage big network emergencies and help it to restore power faster when outages occur.

Educational Initiatives

GE Healthcare is collaborating with The Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Medical College of South Carolina to offer an integrated radiology curriculum during their respective MD Programs led by investigators of the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity study. GE has donated over one million dollars of Logiq E Ultrasound equipment to these two institutions.

Legal Issues

On August 4, 2009 the SEC fined General Electric $50 million for breaking accounting rules in two separate cases, misleading investors into believing GE would meet or beat earnings expectations.

GE has faced criminal action regarding its defense related operations. GE was convicted in 1990 of defrauding the U.S. Department of Defense, and again in 1992 on charges of corrupt practices in the sale of jet engines to Israel.

Media depiction

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 devastated by the company's involvement in building and testing nuclear bombs."

GE is also heavily mentioned in 30 Rock. In the first season, GE owned several companies, including the (fictional) Sheinhardt Wig Company, who owned NBC (who also owned several companies). NBC actually published a chart showing the corporate food chain.

See also


  1. Company Information: General Electric, U.S Securities and Exchange Commission
  5. GE Thomas Edison: History, Electricity, Light Bulb, Research, Founder
  6. The New York Times 22 May 2007
  7. Jeffrey Immelt's Biography
  8. "Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard", BusinessWeek.
  9. Domains Timeline
  10. Network Solutions - Domain Registration Information:
  11. List of Large Companies that own a Two Letter Domain
  12. GE Money Global Financial Solutions
  13. GE confirms it's exiting appliance business - U.S. business -
  14. Company history
  15. "America's Most Admired Companies 2006", Fortune Magazine, March 6, 2006
  16. Political Economy Research Institute Toxic 100 Corporate Toxics Information Project Technical Notes retrieved 9 November 2007
  17. Political Economy Research Institute
  18. The Center for Public Integrity
  19. The Region; G.E. Plant Accused Of Water Pollution", The New York Times, January 21, 1983
  20. GE agrees to $250 Million Settlement to Clean Up PCBs in Housatonic River, Department of Justice news release, October 7, 1999
  21. Hudson River PCBs
  22. Historic Hudson River Cleanup to Begin After Years of Delay, But Will General Electric Finish the Job? Under the EPA's unusual agreement with General Electric, the company could escape full responsibility for cleaning up the toxic mess it made in the Hudson River
  23. The New York Times 1 May 2007
  24. United States Environmental Protection Agency
  25. "Ecomagination: Inside GE's Power Play"
  26. "Talking Green, Acting Dirty." The New York Times 12 June 2005
  27. GE cleantech sales to top $17bn this year
  28. GE illustrates broad spectrum of alternative energy projects
  29. [1] A Pilot Study of Comprehensive Ultrasound Education at the Wayne State University School of Medicine
  31. SEC Fines GE $50 Million for Accounting Misdeeds
  32. Sam Husseini, Felons On The Air: Does GE's Ownership of NBC Violate the Law?, FAIR.ORG, November/December 1994
  33. Stevenson, Richard W. G.E. Guilty Plea in U.S. Aid to Israel, New York Times, July 23, 1992.
  34. Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment
  35. Nuclear Weaponmakers Campaign - Corporate Accountability International - Challenging Abuse, Protecting People - Think Outside the Bottle - challenging the bottled water indust...

Further reading

  • Carlson, W. Bernard. Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  • Woodbury, David O. Elihu Thomson, Beloved Scientist (Boston: Museum of Science, 1944)
  • Haney, John L. The Elihu Thomson Collection American Philosophical Society Yearbook 1944.
  • Hammond, John W. Men and Volts: The Story of General Electric, published 1941, 436 pages.
  • Mill, John M. Men and Volts at War: The Story of General Electric in World War II, published 1947.

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