Production reached $1 billion the next year, “almost entirely on war goods,” we wrote. GE has remained a key arm in America’s military-industrial complex over the succeeding eight decades, and that will be a focus after the spinoffs.
The company’s postwar consumer outlook was also bright, with pent-up demand for “such items as refrigerators, radios, vacuum cleaners, etc.,” according to Barron’s.
By 1951, GE was churning out more than 200,000 products, “ranging from small Christmas tree lamps to giant steam turbines,” Barron’s reported, and its J47 jet engine was a workhorse of the skies. “It is still a vigorous organization despite 60 years of growth.”
In 1960, GE established General Electric Credit Corp. to offer customer financing. By 1975, though, 95% of GECC’s financings had “nothing to do with GE television sets, refrigerators, or electric frying pans,” Barron’s wrote, while its $4.3 billion in assets compared “with GE’s own total assets of $9.3 billion.”
This was the start of a new era for GE, confirmed in 1981 with the ascension to CEO of John F.—not yet “Jack”—Welch. In his first analysts’ call, Welch’s plan “came out loud and clear,” Barron’s wrote: “be more aggressive—not loath to use a little more leverage if need be to finance its growth.”Aggressive, Welch was. GE’s $6.3 billion cash reacquisition of RCA in 1985 was the “largest non-oil deal in history,” Barron’s wrote. A year later, GE bought Kidder Peabody for $600 million, leading to scandal and losses. And GE Capital, the renamed finance company, grew larger and more essential.Under Welch—