Recent turmoil around megabond fund manager Pimco has been "like a near-death experience," firm's founder Bill Gross says.
Significant underperformance coupled with the exit of high-profile CEO Mohamed El-Erian caused Gross to re-evaluate the way he was running the firm, which manages nearly $2 trillion for clients and runs the world's largest bond fund, the Pimco Total Return, which has assets of $232 billion.
"People have different impressions of themselves, and where reality lies is somewhere in between," Gross told Bloomberg Businessweek in a profile slated to hit newsstands Friday. "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?" he added. "Sort of like the caterpillar in 'Alice in Wonderland'—instead of who are you, who am I? That's been the most upsetting part. Are they right? Or am I right?"
El-Erian, who ran Pimco's day-to-day operations, announced in January he was leaving the firm, and an article a month later in The Wall Street Journal chronicled the events that led to his departure. The piece characterized Gross as an obsessive autocrat who stifled dissent and argued with El-Erian in front of staff.
Though he has written opinion pieces on various topics for several news outlets, including CNBC.com, El-Erian has declined numerous requests for comment on his departure. He also declined comment for this report.
Gross described El-Erian's departure in agonizing terms:
"I begged, as much as a man in my position can beg," he said. "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.'"
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