Welch's wife, Suzy, confirmed his death to CNBC.
Welch grew up in Boston, the son of a railroad conductor. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he joined GE as a chemical engineer in 1960. He rose to the head of the company's plastics division by 1968 and was named CEO in 1981.
During his tenure as CEO, Welch grew GE into the second-most valuable company in the world, behind Microsoft. He streamlined operations and allowed managers the freedom to streamline their own operations as they saw fit.
But Welch prioritized efficiency. According to CNBC , he used a "vitality curve" to determine manager performance, routinely firing the bottom 10 percent of managers.
Since his retirement at GE, the company has fallen on hard times. Near the end of his term as CEO, GE stock traded at $57 a share. Prior to the opening of the market on Monday, GE stock was trading at $10.88 a share.
Welch published three books throughout his life, and even made an appearance on the sitcom 30 Rock — which is set in the fictional world fo GE and NBC Universal — in 2010.