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The collapse of GE's house of debt was 130 years coming

David Fickling
David Fickling11/14/2021 10:05 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
The collapse of GE's house of debt was 130 years coming
The final irony comes not from their fate, though, but from a company named after Edison’s arch-rival: Tesla
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Genius, the inventor Thomas Edison once said, is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. He might have added: In business, it’s also almost 100% commercialization.

That’s a final lesson for General Electric Co, the industrial conglomerate Edison helped found that’s being split into three after nearly 130 years — as well as for Toshiba Corp, once effectively GE’s Japanese unit and now also considering a division into three separate businesses.

GE had always liked to think of itself as a hotbed of research and development in the model of Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory. From the start, though, the company drew as much from the financial brilliance of its co-founder, John Pierpont Morgan, as from Edison’s engineering prowess. A failure to keep up with how equity and debt markets changed in the 21st century is at least as important an element in its downfall as industrial missteps.

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