Dot-Coms Don't Worry GE's Welch

Embraced Digital Technology To Make Old Company Young

Small and nimble as they may be, dot-coms will be left in the dust by their hulking, huge competitors who embrace the Internet as he did, says General Electric's CEO Jack Welch. Credited with turning an old manufacturer into a diverse, modern conglomerate, Welch just announced plans for GE to buy another conglomerate, Honeywell, a few days ago.

The superstar CEO talked to Lesley Stahl about his business and his personal life in a rare interview on 60 Minutes.

Welch, didn't see the Internet and its e-business possibilities as the key to GE's future until just over two years ago. He has his wife, Jane, to thank for that, he says. "(Jane) had been involved in the Internet for years. I just didn't get it," says Welch, who says his wife showed him an Internet message board where the messages really hit home.

"She went to a Yahoo message board on GE and they were talking about me," he recalls. "It was all gossip,...rumors....'God,' I go, 'This is really fascinating.' And then...I got hooked."

Welch has embraced the new digital technology as the way to make his old company young and preaches its wonders in corporate sessions with GE managers. Going digital gives long-established businesses like his an advantage when competing for future profits with the dot-coms of the world. "(Dot-coms) are out building warehouses…freezers…to ship little things around…We got all that stuff," he tells Stahl.

To his managers, he's even more blunt. "Don't let somebody show up with a dot-com. It's nothing. It's meaningless. They've got nothing," he tells a rapt group of GE employees in a corporate session videotaped by 60 Minutes cameras.