• The Man Who Broke Capitalism

  • How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy
  • By: David Gelles
  • Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
  • Length: 9 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (313 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Bestseller

New York Times reporter and “Corner Office” columnist David Gelles reveals legendary GE CEO Jack Welch to be the root of all that’s wrong with capitalism today and offers advice on how we might right those wrongs.

In 1981, Jack Welch took over General Electric and quickly rose to fame as the first celebrity CEO. He golfed with presidents, mingled with movie stars, and was idolized for growing GE into the most valuable company in the world. But Welch’s achievements didn’t stem from some greater intelligence or business prowess. Rather, they were the result of a sustained effort to push GE’s stock price ever higher, often at the expense of workers, consumers, and innovation. In this captivating, revelatory book, David Gelles argues that Welch single-handedly ushered in a new, cutthroat era of American capitalism that continues to this day.

Gelles chronicles Welch’s campaign to vaporize hundreds of thousands of jobs in a bid to boost profits, eviscerating the country’s manufacturing base and destabilizing the middle class. Welch’s obsession with downsizing—he eliminated 10% of employees every year—fundamentally altered GE and inspired generations of imitators who have employed his strategies at other companies around the globe. In his day, Welch was corporate America’s leading proponent of mergers and acquisitions, using deals to gobble up competitors and giving rise to an economy that is more concentrated and less dynamic. And Welch pioneered the dark arts of “financialization,” transforming GE from an admired industrial manufacturer into what was effectively an unregulated bank. The finance business was hugely profitable in the short term and helped Welch keep GE’s stock price ticking up. But ultimately, financialization undermined GE and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies.

Gelles shows how Welch’s celebrated emphasis on increasing shareholder value by any means necessary (layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring, acquisitions, and buybacks, to name but a few tactics) became the norm in American business generally. He demonstrates how that approach has led to the greatest socioeconomic inequality since the Great Depression and harmed many of the very companies that have embraced it. And he shows how a generation of Welch acolytes radically transformed companies like Boeing, Home Depot, Kraft Heinz, and more. Finally, Gelles chronicles the change that is now afoot in corporate America, highlighting companies and leaders who have abandoned Welchism and are proving that it is still possible to excel in the business world without destroying livelihoods, gutting communities, and spurning regulation.

©2022 David Gelles. All rights reserved (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about The Man Who Broke Capitalism

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    4 out of 5 stars

Good book, heavy handed politics

This is a good, thought provoking book. The author missed the mark on two points:

First, why do we authors insist on misreporting the "very fine people" story? I'm not by any means a fan of Trump and I never voted for him, but he didn't call white nationalists very fine people. you can read the transcript of his remarks. In fact, he explicitly excludes and condemns Nazis and white nationalists in those remarks.

Second, I really don't think the author understands Milton Friedman as much as he thinks he does, and he misrepresents a lot of Friedman's ideas.

Other than that it was spot on. I was coming into adulthood as Welch's career came to a close and I remember him as a huge celebrity, but I never realized how awful he was.

7 people found this helpful

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Articulated what working Americans feel

This book articulated the problems with our current version of capitalism that many people feel but do not understand. You can trace most the problems we have today to the “Financialization” of corporate America. Workers have been left behind, and while elected officials deserve some blame, more anger needs to be directed at the corporate class who rigged the game for themselves.

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The info in here make me sick to my stomach

Such a good explanation on how we've gotten o where we are in America. Short term gains above all else means no investments in people or innovation to keep companies alive. No guilt in destroying 10,000s ppl lives by cutting their jobs to give shareholders dividends and themselves 100 of millions in rewards. It's just sick.

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good on Welch, thin on alternatives

expected more detailed analysis of the Welch method - my bad, should have read the title more carefully.
Weak in the alternatives to the Welch approach. Only more salary and benefits are not the solution.
Some unnecessary repetitions as if time and pages had to be filled.

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The Real Forces Shaping Our World

Want to learn about how modern capitalism REALLY works?

Want to understand how the Fortune 500 CEO's actually define the jobs?

Want to understand where corporations are leading us in this century?

Gelles has written a blunt, well-researched and eye-opening account that forced me to reassess what I believed about the power of the C-suite to shape not only the future of their companies, but the future of our cities, culture and economy.

This was a fantastic listen and I've shared it with numerous friends.

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Great book, highly recommend

I really enjoyed this book! Learning about what had caused such a dramatic change in how corporations treated not only their employees and surrounding communities, but on how focused they became on shareholder primacy and their executive's pay; are both amazing and sickening!

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Destruction of Society

This book illustrates how an individual has destroyed society for the desire to accomplish his ability to be ultra rich.
He love to destroy humans in his path

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makes the 90s till now make more sense

it's good read makes sense of the 90s till now. just more opening my eyes.

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Good info. to know. All new to me!

An easy but disturbing listen. Gelles seems spot on some of the time and naive other times. He really, REALLY seems to hate the notion of limiting tax liability, but I think limiting tax liability is honorable and necessary. Gelles seems to think the IRS plays fair and has the country's and citizens' and corporations' best interests in mind, but it does not and does not.

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A good story that will make you reflect

The story capture you from the start. the audio performance is awesome. If you are into business management, you should read and hear this.