Setbacks spin new twist on Welch bio

'Jack' hits bookstores Sept. 11

NEW YORK — It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

When Warner Books coughed up a record $7.1 million last year for “Jack,” the memoir of GE topper Jack Welch, the sun was setting on the exec’s dynamic 20-year run at GE, and $7 million seemed a justifiable, albeit risky, price to pay for one of the great business stories — Welch grew the company from a $14 billion biz to a $490 billion giant.

But lately, fortune hasn’t smiled on Welch.

In July, the EC blocked GE’s $42 billion bid for Honeywell — which had been heralded as the crowning achievement of Welch’s career.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered GE to pay $460 million to clean up pollutants from the Hudson River. At the same time, revelations emerged that Welch may have interfered with NBC’s 2000 election results reporting.

GE’s stock has tumbled, hovering at $42.20 on Friday, down from a 52-week high of $60.50.

These events won’t harm sales, said Warner Books head Laurence Kirschbaum, who ships 1 million copies of “Jack” to bookstores Sept. 11.

The knocks may even be a blessing in disguise. Welch “may be wounded,” said Kirschbaum, “but he’ll probably be even more engaging when he has to fight from a corner.”