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Watching GE struggle is 'painful,' Bob Nardelli says

  • Bob Nardelli, General Electric's former transportation CEO and power systems CEO, said watching GE struggle is painful, but he wouldn't point his finger at anyone at the company for its struggles.
  • GE's stock has fallen 26 percent this year and has made management and board changes.
  • Nardelli said the company needs to maintain its dividend or risk losing confidence — and shareholders.

Watching General Electric struggle is painful, said Bob Nardelli, the company's former transportation CEO and power systems CEO.

GE's famously predictable stock price has fallen 26 percent this year. John Flannery replaced Jeff Immelt as CEO in June. Earlier this month, the company made several management changes and and added Trian Partner's founding partner and chief investment officer Ed Garden to its board of directors.

"(Those were) some of my best days, both with the colleagues I the had chance to work with. I was blessed and fortunate to get mentored by Jack Welch, who was clearly the best leader, the ultimate leader and the ultimate CEO," Nardelli told CNBC's "Fast Money" on Monday.

Welch, who grew GE's value from $13 billion to several hundred billion dollars, created a competitive and collegiate atmosphere at the company, Nardelli said. That helped create a "beauty" of a portfolio. When one area of the company was down a bit on earnings, another would help make up for it, Nardelli said.

"We always had that yin and yang kind of thing going on so we were able to have steady, predictable earnings quarter after quarter, year after year. And that's probably what's missing a little bit," he said. "If you look at the goes ins and the goes out, there's been a lot of goes outs, but not a lot of goes ins."

He said he doesn't know if he would point his finger at any one person for GE's struggles. However, he did say GE needs to maintain its dividend or else risk losing confidence — and shareholders.

The company has already fielded criticism for not adequately reassuring investors the dividend would remain in tact. Earlier this month, a GE spokeswoman told CNBC "the dividend remains a top priority" in response to JPMorgan analysts saying they see "a dividend cut or 'adjustment' as 'increasingly likely."

"If you're in your 401K and you're in the twilight years, you're really counting on that dividend because you're not really getting any value," Nardelli said. "It's really a dividend stock. And if that's cut, I fear you may see a lot more people move away."