It’s been nearly three months since Mohamed El-Erian announced his plans to step down as CEO and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), with rumors and accusations flying in both directions for most of that time, but in a recent interview with Bloomberg’s Sheelah Kolhatkar, PIMCO co-founder Bill Gross seems to have switched focus from what happened with El-Erian to trying to rehabilitate his image.
‘A metaphysical few months’: Gross
“People have different impressions of themselves, and where reality lies is somewhere in between. And maybe I hadn’t been forced to be in between. I always thought of myself as being part of a family and sharing and, yes, leading, but not forcing people to do anything. And so it was almost like a metaphysical few months where I was, like, is this me?” Gross said to Kolhatkar.
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Gross’s colleagues describe him as intense, hard-driving, and of course immensely talented, but they also describe El-Erian as a perfect foil, an academic economist who is better equipped at dealing with management issues and media contacts. With him out of the picture, Gross once again has to deal with the personnel issues that he would have just as soon let someone else deal with.
‘It’s not all love and kisses’: Gross
So it’s interesting that Gross describes PIMCO’s daily meetings after El-Erian’s departure as more relaxed, friendlier affairs in which people feel free to speak up, possibly because they are no longer intimidated by himself and El-ERian side by side. The meetings have become so pleasant, according to Gross, that he says he is concerned they could be less effective at driving returns.
“That’s the danger in this—it’s not all love and kisses and cheesecake dessert,” says Gross.
It’s hard to imagine the Gross that is usually described in the media putting his employees at such ease that they are no longer striving to find the best new idea, so either the Gross really has been shocked by El-Erian’s departure and the subsequent media frenzy, and is now compensating by going to the other extreme, or he is working hard to rehabilitate his image. Whether the world’s most successful bond investor is trying to learn new tricks as he approaches 70, or he just wants clients to feel comfortable with him at the helm for a while longer, the big question remains: with El-Erian gone, what are Gross’s plans for succession?