April 10 (Reuters) - Bill Gross, the co-founder and chief investment officer of Pimco, told Bloomberg Businessweek that his chosen successor, Mohamed El-Erian, never fully explained his decision to leave one of the largest investment firms in the world.
In the article titled "Am I really such a jerk?," Gross, who oversees nearly $2 trillion of assets, said El-Erian only told him: "I'm not the man to lead the company forward."
"I begged, as much as a man in my position can beg," Gross said in his first sit-down interview since news of El-Erian's departure broke in January. "I didn't get on my knees, but - 'Don't leave. What are you doing? Don't!' And at some point it was, 'All right, already."'
Gross has been dealing with the waves caused by a public falling-out with El-Erian that has brought scrutiny of his handling of the situation. In March the flagship Pimco Total Return Fund suffered an 11th straight month of outflows and its performance lagged 95 percent of its peers.
Gross, who celebrates his 70th birthday this weekend, told Bloomberg Businessweek that he knows that he's stubborn and not necessarily the most sociable person: "I would admit I'm an introvert. I don't know why introverts have to apologize."
"But it is true - it's hard for me to come in at 5:30 a.m. and be into the bond market. And I don't go around enough and say, 'Hi, Sally. Hi, Joe, how you doing?' And that's because that's who I am. I wish I was different."
On Feb. 24, the Wall Street Journal published a report describing how El-Erian's previously close relationship with Gross had soured as the firm's performance deteriorated last year. Then Gross told Reuters that his one-time lieutenant was trying to "undermine" him, and that he had "evidence" El-Erian "wrote" the Journal article.
"Whenever I read the newspaper," Gross told Bloomberg Businessweek, "I say to myself, 'At least my wife loves me."'
(Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)