Power Failure by William D. Cohan [8/10]

What a story for the ages, under the rubric of “how the mighty crash.” My main awareness of GE comes from a close look at its decades-long battle with Westinghouse for leadership of the power reactor business, and also some acquaintanceship with GE Capital during my business days. I read Jack Welch’s feisty tale of business mastery in Jack: Straight from the Gut and then 2021’s Lights Out by Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann (my review). Now renowned business history author William D. Cohan subsumes all those accounts with Power Failure: The Rise and Fall of General Electric,” a baggy but compendious 130-year narrative that should be required reading for all business afficionados. Cohan seems to have interviewed all the major players and to have read everything ever written about GE. He is a direct, fluent stylist and even though sometimes he launches into sidetracks, none are ever uninteresting and the overall impact is a dazzling encapsulation of a mighty giant’s ascent and ignominious recent descent. Power Failure may well prove to the first and last word on General Electric.

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