“Am I really such a jerk?” asks PIMCO’s Bill Gross on the cover of the new Bloomberg Businessweek.
This lengthy profile comes as media coverage of the bond fund manager has shifted from fund performance to drama in the executive suite.
In the new story reported by Businessweek’s Sheelah Kolhatkar, Gross flies head first into the story:
His long limbs are folded into a swivel chair inside Pimco’s Newport Beach (Calif.) offices, from which he oversees one of the largest investment firms in the world, with nearly $US2 trillion belonging to pension funds, endowments, and pretty much anyone with a retirement account. He’s in navy suit trousers and shirtsleeves, his eyes are misty blue, and he sports a thick head of silvery hair — a mane fit for Mufasa. “It’s been like a near-death experience, an emotional blow,” he continues. His nervous press handler sits a few chairs away, unsure what might come out of his boss’s mouth next. “Whenever I read the newspaper,” Gross says, “I say to myself, ‘At least my wife loves me.’ ”
Gross told Kolhatkar that he never understood or got a complete explanation for why El-Erian left the firm.
However, there may be clues based on El-Erian’s intense work ethic. From the piece:
Things were good for a while. “Mohamed and I, we sort of settled in like a married couple,” Gross says. El-Erian kept even more extreme hours than Gross did, sleeping from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m., spending time on his op-eds and other prolific media output, and hitting the office around 4:30 or 5 a.m. He and Gross corresponded all day — mainly by email, even though they sat next to each other, because Gross doesn’t like to be interrupted. When he wasn’t travelling, El-Erian would move at about 9 a.m. from the trading floor to his office in the executive wing to tackle his management duties. According to former colleagues, El-Erian regularly referred to a list his daughter had made of all the recitals and other milestones he’d missed.
Perhaps that last bit was what drove El-Erian to his decision.
The piece is a fun and interesting read and it spends almost as much time talking about El-Erian as it does Gross. It takes us through Gross’ morning routine and it includes interviews with people familiar with PIMCO and its management.
For clients of the firm, this story is probably just another distraction pulling attention away from performance.
According to recent Morningstar data, PIMCO’s Total Return Fund, the flagship fund managed by Gross, lagged 85% of its competitors in March. During the month, the fund saw $US3.1 billion worth of net ouflows.
“The cumulative net outflow over 11 months since outflows began in May is $US52.1 billion,” noted Morningstar’s Michael Rawson regarding the fund. “Assets at the fund peaked at around $US293 billion and are now at $US232 billion.”
It’s unreasonable for clients to demand performance on a month-to-month basis. It is however reasonable for them to demand confidence from the folks managing their money.
Does Businessweek’s article help?
For now, we can only watch and wait for outflows to stabilise.