When former Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) CEO and co-CIO Mohamed El-Erian announced that he was leaving the firm earlier this year, it set off months of discussion and speculation about what really happened between El-Erian and PIMCO co-CIO Bill Gross, the legendary bond investor he was meant to replace. In an interview with Jennifer Ablan and Dan Burns of Reuters El-Erian, now the chief economic advisor at Allianz (a post created specifically for him) gives an explanation for why he left, but it isn’t terribly convincing. The most believable part is that he wishes he could have handled the PR aftermath a little more smoothly.
“If I had known that there would be this media circus, I would’ve done a lot of things differently,” said El-Erian.
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El-Erian cites work-life balance for leaving PIMCO
El-Erian says that in May 2013 his ten-year-old daughter gave him a list of 22 milestones in her life that he had missed because of the long hours that he spent at PIMCO, and that he started looking for ways to make a change. El-Erian certainly wouldn’t be the first high-powered executive to struggle with work-life balance, but he also says that in the seven months before he left, he never explored options to continue at PIMCO while working less. Add in the fact that his departure took Gross by surprise and it’s hard to believe that this was the carefully thought out step back that El-Erian wants to portray it as.
El-Erian ending the discussion without giving more details
When asked specifically whether El-Erian left because he was feuding with Gross, El-Erian simply said that he doesn’t discuss personal interactions, which is fair enough, but his next non-answer is even more telling. When asked if he was under any sort of contract that would prevent him from talking about the terms of his departure, El-Erian grins and says that “I don’t even talk about my legal terms.”
This late-coming, stock reply that he wanted to spend more time with his family and that he isn’t interested in discussing anything further about PIMCO (which he praises as a great company, full of talent) means we probably aren’t going to get any more detail about the whole affair than we already have. Whatever happened El-Erian has moved on, and those of curious about the details will probably just have to do the same.