cover image Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric

Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric

Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-358-25041-8

A venerable American company struggles for survival and eventually crashes, in this exciting offering from Wall Street Journal reporters Gryta and Mann. Formed in the late 19th century, General Electric enjoyed a long, genteel reign as America’s dominant producer of electrical goods. The book centers on the company’s dramatic decline, starting with longtime CEO Jack Welch’s exit in September 2001, and his replacement by his handpicked successor, Jeff Immelt. Inheriting a company typified by rigid procedures and a boys’ club culture, Gryta and Mann note, Immelt was determined to drag GE into the modern day. The authors track these attempts at reinvention, such as by adopting a “lean manufacturing” model antithetical to GE’s traditionally meticulous product-development approach. They also cover the hard-fought battles with the Environmental Protection Agency, ill-conceived business dealings, and falling stock prices that marred Immelt’s reign. After Immelt retired in 2017, GE veteran John Flannery took over, only to discover a chaotic, money-losing mess, with “reported profits [that] were aspirational, if not fraudulent.” Possessing all the suspense of a true-crime account, Gryta and Mann’s riveting look at GE’s previous two decades underlines the harsh facts of survival in 21st-century business. Agent: Eric Lupfer, Fletcher & Co. (July)