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G.E., which has its roots in Thomas Edison, sells its lighting business

More than 140 years after Thomas Edison and his assistants carried out their first successful experiments with a carbon filament lamp in a vacuum, the company he co-founded – General Electric – sold his lighting business.

Analysts said Wednesday’s sale was not a surprise. G.E. had been trying to outsource its lighting division for several years as it focused on more profitable areas such as renewable energy and health technology.

But in the annals of American corporate culture, where G.E. and the light bulb has long been synonymous, decoupling was a crucial moment for some, as if Kellogg had dropped his cornflakes business or Ford had stopped making cars.

“From the point of view of people who call the lightbulb a symbol of modern inventions and innovations, the fact that GE, which has been at the forefront of this industry for many years, is saddened.” said Paul Israel, director and general editor of Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University.

Nevertheless, G.E. Joseph L. Bower, emeritus professor at Harvard Business School, said he turned away from this part of his business to focus on high technology. In this sense, the sale is symbolically significant, but does not signal a significant change in the corporate strategy.

“Iconic is the right word because it is not a fundamental change for G.E.,” he said. “I suspect it could have happened a long time ago because G.E. looked at his portfolio, his consumer goods businesses like toasters and things like that were not good, profitable businesses. “

G.E. sold its lighting business to Savant Systems Inc., a Massachusetts-based home automation company. G.E. did not announce the terms, but said the lighting department’s headquarters would remain in Cleveland and the more than 700 employees would switch to Savant after the sale was completed. The deal also included a license agreement that enables Savant to acquire the G.E. Brand.

In 1892, Edison founded the Edison General Electric Company to market its products. It merged with a competitor, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, to form a new company, the General Electric Company.

Over the next century, the company would become a bell tower for the American economy, producing jet engines, locomotives, gas turbines – and many, many light bulbs.

G.E. Lighting was at the forefront of all major lighting innovations, from the beginning of incandescent lamps to the first energy-saving fluorescent lamp that was introduced in 1974.

G.E., which had sales of $ 95 billion last year, has not announced in several years what part of its business is related to lighting. However, Professor Bower said that light bulbs “are not really important for a very large company”.

“Together with Savant, G.E. Lighting will continue its innovation legacy, while at G.E. We will continue to develop the infrastructure technologies that are central to our company and fall back on the roots of our founder Thomas Edison, ”he said.

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