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GE's Welch settles contentious divorce

Jack Welch, who was General Electric Co.'s chief executive for 21 years, has settled his acrimonious divorce case on the eve of a scheduled trial.

Terms of the settlement were confidential. Welch, who retired from General Electric in 2001, was to go to trial in divorce court Monday in Bridgeport, Conn..

The sides had been taking depositions in anticipation of a trial, and a judge ruled in February they would remain confidential. The court order was requested by an attorney for Welch, Daniel K. Webb, who said Welch would likely be asked about his business dealings, his health, and entries in his diary regarding personal and business engagements.

Webb also said details of the breakdowns of the Welches' previous marriages were likely to come up, and cited reports of extramarital affairs by both.

Court papers filed Thursday show one part of the agreement calls for Jack Welch to use his "best efforts" to persuade GE to give his former wife title to a condominium near Central Park in New York City. If she does not get title to the residence within 60 days of the divorce, Jack Welch must pay her $15-million.

"Jack and Jane Beasley Welch have settled their matter effective immediately and are now divorced," said a news release issued by the couple's attorneys.

The contentious case led to disclosure of Welch's retirement package and prompted the cancellation, at Welch's request, of most of his fringe benefits. General Electric was criticized for lavishing him with cars, an apartment on Manhattan's Central Park West and tickets for sporting events. It also covered his country club fees and expenses for food, wine and laundry.

A document released earlier detailed how Welch spent some $51,000 a month for upkeep on a half-dozen houses scattered from Massachusetts to Florida, more than $52,000 a month for gifts and nearly $9,000 for food and drink, among other expenses.

Webb said Superior Court Judge Edgar W. Bassick III approved the divorce agreement after a 20-minute hearing Thursday in Bridgeport at which both Welch and his wife were present.

"They are divorced, and the trial that was scheduled to start this coming Monday is now canceled," Webb said. "The terms are confidential and the parties have agreed to have no further comment."

Morton Marvin, an attorney for Jane Beasley Welch, who is 17 years younger than her husband, declined to comment. Another of her attorneys, William Zabel, could not be reached for comment.

The Welches were married for 13 years. Jack Welch, 67, filed for divorce in April 2002 after public disclosure of his affair with former Harvard Business Review editor Suzy Wetlaufer, 43.

Welch agreed to pay for company-provided services after they were disclosed. He valued them at as much as $2.5-million a year. Welch may be the first high-profile retired executive to give up and even pay for such benefits.

The Welches also sparred over the value of Jack Welch's fortune. In November, Welch offered his wife a settlement proposal that might amount to as much as $140-million, the New York Post reported.

Zabel at the time dismissed the offer as akin to a pension and said Welch's affidavit of his assets understated their value by more than $100-million. Welch said in the affidavit that his assets total $456.2-million and that his after-tax income from his pension, consulting work, investments and Social Security is more than $1.4-million a month.

While the settlement was being negotiated, Welch paid his wife $35,000 a month in temporary support.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.