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`Jack Welch's Jackhammer' Nails A Corner Office


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`JACK WELCH'S JACKHAMMER' NAILS A CORNER OFFICE

Lawrence A. Bossidy knows how to bide his time. After 34 years at General Electric Co., lately as vice-chairman, the 56-year-old executive recently turned down several top-notch corporate presidencies. He wanted the No. 1 spot. "Given my age and my experience, I didn't need any more training," he says.

Now, Bossidy has what he wanted. On July 1, he took over as Allied-Signal Inc.'s chief executive, after persuading outgoing chief Edward L. Hennessy Jr. to retire early to make room for him. As part of the deal, Bossidy will land the chairman's seat in December--a full 12 months before Hennessy wanted to relinquish that job.

'GOOD OLD RELIGION.' Bossidy has his work cut out for him. Allied-Signal is a mix of diverse business units, from aerospace and automotive equipment to oil exploration and engineered materials. Some, such as defense, are slow-growers and need an overhaul: Last year, Allied posted just a 3.4% increase in revenues, to $12.3 billion. Profits declined 12.5%, to $462 million. "Changes now have to be in the context of productivity improvements, motivating people, getting back to good old religion," says analyst Anantha K. S. Raman, who owns investment firm Anantha Raman & Co.

Bossidy won't say much about his plans, except that he'll emphasize productivity. "I want to identify people who have passion, who are willing to make a commitment, take ownership, and make it a premier company," he says.

Allied-Signal's new CEO has been a leader-in-waiting for years. As No. 2 to GE's high-profile CEO John F. Welch Jr.--who calls Bossidy his best friend--the vice-chairman operated out of the limelight. Indeed, while Welch received most of the credit for expanding GE into fields as far-flung as TV broadcasting and financial services, Bossidy was left to play the heavy. "We viewed him as Jack Welch's jackhammer," says one former GE executive.

But Bossidy gets credit for a lot more. In the early 1980s, he built up GE Capital Corp. Under his leadership, the unit's revenues rose from $1.1 billion in 1979 to $10.1 billion in 1990. And he fashioned $14.8 billion GE Financial Services by grouping GE Capital with Employers Reinsurance Corp. and Wall Street's Kidder, Peabody & Co., in which GE acquired 80% ownership in 1986.

That $600 million Kidder deal put Bossidy in the hot seat eight months after it closed, when insider-trading allegations against Kidder officials surfaced. But Bossidy's response was nimble: He engineered a $25 million settlement with the government that forestalled a likely indictment and led Rudolph W. Giuliani, then a U. S. attorney, to hail GE as a "responsible corporate citizen."

Still, Bossidy's intense style can be tough. "There's nothing subtle about the guy," says a former Kidder investment director. "You either deliver the goods or you're out." Under him, the pressure at GE is like "having to kill a lion every day," adds Nelson Gurman, general manager of GE's lighting operations in South America.

REGULAR GUY. Bossidy can turn on the charm, too. Employees say he is as comfortable with shop foremen as with government lawyers. In fact, until recently, Bossidy was renowned for rushing around buttoned-down GE with his shirttail hanging out. "He's a lead-by-example kind of guy," says Robert E. Koe, chief executive of Milwaukee's U. S. Leather Holdings Inc., who worked for Bossidy until 1984. American Express Co. Chairman James D. Robinson III, who sat with Bossidy on a Presidential task force on trade, calls him "a top-notch pro, a doer." And U. S. Trade Representative Carla A. Hills, who worked with him on the task force, says he's "just first-rate."

Friends say his regular-guy style stems from his modest roots. A shoe-store owner's son from Pittsfield, Mass., the 6-foot, 1-inch Bossidy at first seemed headed for a pitching career in baseball. In 1953, the Detroit Tigers offered him a $40,000 signing bonus straight out of high school. His father nixed that plan, insisting on college. At Colgate University, he led the Red Raiders into the college world series, but an arm injury dashed his athletic hopes for good.

Staying fit has become a mission for Bossidy, a reformed chain-smoker. He lost his twin brother, sister, and father to heart disease and has been vigorously watching his health for a decade. A golfer, he boasts a handicap in the mid-teens, down from about 23 a decade ago. Hard on himself even about recreation, Bossidy complains that he hasn't "progressed enormously" on the links.

Odds are that Bossidy won't have a lot of time for golf now. Those who know Bossidy say he won't wait long to overhaul things at Allied-Signal. He has been patient long enough.

LAWRENCE A.

BOSSIDY

Chief executive and chairman-designate, Allied-Signal Inc.

AGE 56

EDUCATION Colgate University, BA in economics, 1957

EXPERIENCE A career General Electric Co. worker, Bossidy started as a finance management trainee in 1957. His last job was a seven-year stint as vice-chairman. As part of 11 years of work in General Electric Credit Corp., Bossidy masterminded the creation in 1984 of General Electric Financial Services, which posted $14.8 billion in 1990 revenues

DATA: ALLIED-SIGNAL INC., BWJoseph Weber in Philadelphia and Lisa Driscoll in New Haven


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