13 March 2002

South Africa: Jack Welch's New Squeeza

Johannesburg — What is it about chunky, blue-eyed middle-aged gents that turns some tough female journalists to jelly? Jani Allan, at the time South Africa's leading columnist, risked (and lost) her platform when falling for the dubious charms of one of her interviewees, AWB Leader Eugene Terreblanche. Now the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Harvard Business Review has been forced to resign after admitting to bedding one of her subjects, 66 year old Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric who is now almost as famous for his best-selling biography "Jack".

Welch's soon to be ex-second wife Jane (49) whom he married in 1989, is not amused. She is suing for divorce, has hired one of New York's top lawyers and according to those in the know, looks like landing a big chunk of her husband's vast fortune. According to the London Financial Times, his outstanding stock options in GE alone are worth over US$900m (R10,5 bn). A big plus factor for Mrs Welch is the recent expiry of the once happy couple's original pre-nuptial contract.

Welch's new sweetheart, attractive divorcee Suzy Wetlaufer (42), is a mother of four. There's obviously plenty of passion between two as she says the affair, which started last November is still going strong. It began after she interviewed Welch for a story. Wetlaufer, herself a Harvard MBA graduate (class of 1988), resigned from the editorship of the Harvard Business Review on Friday, a position she has held for the past 17 months. But the now "out of town" journalist will not leave the publication, returning for duty next month as editor-at-large ? an appointment which spurred two of the senior editors to resign in protest.

Where she found the time for the Welch liason, though, is uncertain. In an interview shortly after being appointed the HBR editor, Wetlaufer described her typical day as: "This morning I woke up at 5:45 and got my kids dressed, fed, and ready for school. I drove the carpool for two of them, and I got to the office at 8:00. Since then, I've done a little of everything that we do at HBR ? I edited; I acquired an article; I spoke with authors; I wrote the beginning of the list article; I did a few employee reviews; I interviewed a candidate for a job. I sang "Down in the Valley" to an editor who is in the thick of a very long piece. A typical day is pretty frenetic and contains a lot of everything, and that is fabulous. It's the perfect job for me. Never a dull moment. " The normally media friendly Welch says he has no comment as it's "a personal matter."

Suzy Wetlaufer

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