G.E. Flicks the Switch On 129-Year-Old Lighting Business

General Electric has announced it will shut down its historically-significant light division that was founded by Thomas Edison nearly 130-years ago. 

GE made the announcement earlier this week, confirming that its lighting division will be sold to Savant Systems, a company that specialises in smart home technology after attempting to find a buyer for a number of years now.  

General Electric’s CEO, Larry Culp has said that “today’s transaction is another important step in the transformation of GE into a more focussed industrial company,” while confirming that GE & Savant signed a licensing agreement that would continue to brand products with the iconic G.E. logo.  

“Our GE Lighting colleagues will join a fast-growing leader in home automation that shares their passion for bringing the future to light,” he continued to explain. “Together with Savant, G.E. Lighting will continue its legacy of innovation, while we at G.E. will continue to advance infrastructure technologies that are core to our company and draw on the roots of our founder, Thomas Edison,” Culp said. 

While G.E. didn’t disclose the terms of agreement, it did say that its lighting division’s headquarters will remain in place, and it will not be laying off any of the 700 staff employed at its Cleveland HQ. 

Paul Israel, director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University told The New York Times that “from the standpoint of people who associate the light bulb as the symbol of modern invention and innovation, there’s a kind of sadness to the fact that G.E., which for many years was at the forefront of that industry, has moved away from it.” 

General Electric has undoubtedly led the major advancements in lightbulb technology since Edison founded the company 130 years ago, pioneering the world’s first incandescent bulb, the first energy-efficient fluorescent bulb and the first LED light thanks to engineer, Nick Holonyak in 1962. 

General Electric was founded in 1892 when Thomas Edison’s General Electric Company merged with competitor Thomson-Houston Electric Company, which formed the General Electric Company. Thomas Edison, however, did not stay in the newly-formed company, and sold his stake for $1.5 million, around $430 million in today’s money when adjusted for inflation, according to General Electric 

Thomas Alva Edison, founder of Edison’s General Electric Company

Robert Madonna, founder and CEO of Savant has told CNN Business that “it’s a perfect match- this will be a powerhouse,” he said in relation to the recently-struck deal. “There is a vacuum right now. The space is dying for a leader,” he added. 

“I grew up in GE land. It’s an iconic brand, and it’s an honor to take that legacy and continue it in the smart home space,” Madonna said. “When Thomas Edison installed the first light bulb, that must have been magical.”

“We are committed to ensuring that GE Lighting’s long history of industry leadership continues, while bringing exceptional value and reliability to retail partners and consumers as the number one intelligent lighting company worldwide,” Madonna concluded. 

General Electric has made moves to sell unprofitable sectors of the business, and consolidate its operations on researching and developing the latest in aviation, healthcare, power and renewable energy technologies. 

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