Marriott Alumni Magazine

Spring Summer 1977 Exchange

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EXCHANGE: SPEAKING OUT General Electric's Reginald Jones As chairman of the board and chief executive officer of General Electric Company, Reginald H. Jones, 59, is responsible to more than one-half million shareholders. In addition he serves as a member of the President's Export Council, a member of the Business Council Executive Committee, and cochairman of the Business Roundtable. Joining a GE business training course in 1939, Jones held various company management posts in accounting, manufacturing, and finance, before he was named to his current position in December 1972. In an interview with Exchange editor Mary Kay Stout, Jones discussed GE's merger with Utah International, the activities of his board, and his recent tax reform proposals before the Senate Budget Committee, among other subjects. What is the background and the purpose of the Business Roundtable? As business leaders we were confronted with statements coming out of Washington to the effect that whenever any issue was raised, labor could present a monolithic position, but business was all over the spectrum. Government leaders and others felt business could not off any kind of single voice on issues significant to our nation. And, furthermore, even when business did come to speak in Washington, it sent its staff members or junior officers. After having received so any admonitions of this type, a group of chief executive officers got together to form something called the Business Roundtable. The only requirement is that if you are going to become a member of the Business Roundtable, you have to be willing, as the chief executive officer, to come to the meetings and to personally be a spokesman in Washington for a particular industry. You do not send one of your associates to do the job that you have agreed and selected to do. What are some of the Roundtable’s activities? There are roughly 160 companies represented in the Roundtable. The policy committee meets rather frequently and appoints task forces on significant areas of concern. There is a task force, for example, on taxation, which I chair. There are other task forces on environmental concerns, energy, consumer legislation, corporate governance, and so on. We have found that on many, many issues we can arrive at a single position. This has lead to publishing papers that have been endorsed by the Roundtable and presented to the executive branch of government as well as to individual congressmen and senators. Do you have a hard time deciding how much time to spend in Washington or with the Roundtable as opposed to the day-to-day business of General Electric? I look at the chairmanship of the board of directors at the General Electric Company as, essentially, a job involving stewardship. I am a steward, in essence, for the funds that have been invested by our shareowners. In a sense, I am also a steward for the economic lives of our employees. In addition I am a steward for the confidence that our customers have put in our company. Because of these responsibilities, you become a spokesman. I believe that many of the decisions that are made in Washington have more impact on the company than many of the decisions that I might make sitting in the office-such as whether or not we are going to produce an 8-foot or 9-foot refrigerator. We have individuals who are experts in these areas who make those decisions and develop recommendations. We have tried to organize the company in a way that leaves me some time to concern myself with more general matters-matters that have an impact on the total corporation. This philosophy has enabled me to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Budget Committee as well as to meet with the secretary of the treasury and the presidential economic advisors. Government is more and more involved in the affairs of business; therefore, I think it

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