Jack Welch, the champion of corporate efficiency who built General Electric Co. into one of the world’s largest companies and influenced generations of business leaders, has died. He was 84.

His death was confirmed Monday by his former secretary.

The former GE chairman and chief executive officer, whose blunt style and ceaseless cost cutting earned him the sobriquet “Neutron Jack,” mentored proteges who went on to run some of the world’s best-known companies. Named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 1999, he presided over a stock surge of almost 3,000% during a two-decade tenure before his legacy was dented in retirement by GE’s bruising share plunge.

President Donald Trump called Welch a friend and “business legend,” saying in a tweet that he will never be forgotten. “There was no corporate leader like ‘neutron’ Jack.”

Known simply as Jack to even low-level employees, Welch became the youngest CEO in GE’s history in 1981. He created a leaner company, yet one whose dependence on finance would eventually prove to be a threat. Along the way, he molded GE’s culture to reflect his demanding personality, one larger than his 5-foot-7-inch (1.7-meter) frame.

“I like challenging people. I like debate. I like all those things,” he told interviewer Charlie Rose less than two months after his 2001 retirement. “And yet I love having a drink with ’em, too.”

Welch stepped down four days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He remained active for more than a decade as a consultant and media commentator.

Business leaders extolled his ability to boost profit and shareholder wealth with his restless, results-driven approach. GE became the world’s biggest company by market value at more than $500 billion in 1999.

“He became the gold standard of greatness, the icon of industrial imagination,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale University business professor who knew Welch since the 1980s. “His track record over those 20 years as CEO is hard to see excelled anywhere.”

Imitators across corporate America copied his leadership strategies, and recruiters snapped up lieutenants including W. James McNerney Jr., who later became Boeing Co.’s CEO, and Robert Nardelli, who ran Home Depot Inc. and Chrysler. Another GE executive, Jeffrey Immelt, would best them to succeed Welch.

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