Is the bond king a dictator?
Bill Gross, co-founder of Pimco and manager of the world's biggest bond fund (PTTRX) became the subject of a scathing article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal Tuesday.
The 69-year-old billionaire investor is known for being praised by the media as one of the most influential players on Wall Street, with investors around the world listening for his views on financial markets and the economy. But the Wall Street Journal article sheds a different light on Gross, and the factors that may have led to the resignation of Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian.
"Mr. Gross — by his own admission, a demanding boss — had long showed respect for Mr. El-Erian and indicated that the younger man eventually would take over the world's biggest bond firm," the WSJ story said. "But one day last June, the two men squared off in front of more than a dozen colleagues amid disagreements about Mr. Gross's conduct, according to two people who were there."
The article went on to cite two witnesses who were there during the conversation saying that Gross highlighted his "41-year track record of investing excellence," and asked El-Erian what he had to show.
In response, El-Erian reportedly told Gross he was "tired of cleaning up your s---."
The colorful article, which cites a number of "individuals close to both men," along with former Pimco employees, says the rising tension between the two executives was among the chief reasons for El-Erian's sudden departure.
The villainous portrayal of Gross became a hot topic on Twitter, with opinionated and successful venture capitalist Marc Andreessen coming to the defense of Gross' management style in a dozen consecutive tweets.
While the Silicon Valley heavyweight admitted he doesn't know Gross and doesn't work with him, he said "the behavior described is completely typical of any highly-successful, high-functioning organization in any field I've ever seen."
Others had a similar sentiment, with one trader recalling that the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was also known for his brash personality.
But others were less forgiving.
Reuters' Felix Salmon suggested it might be time for Gross to step down, but others were less convinced.
Gross also took to Twitter using the firm's handle to address the takedown.
Later Tuesday afternoon, during a phone interview on CNBC, Gross called the Journal's characterization of an autocratic style and the conflict between him and El-Erian "overblown."
He said the two are friends, recalling that he and Pimco's investment committee hired El-Erian twice -- first in 1999, and then again in 2007, after El-Erian had completed a two-year stint managing Harvard's endowment.
When asked if there were any factual errors in the article, Gross said he didn't want to "quarrel" with the Journal's Greg Zuckerman and invited him to see the environment at Pimco firsthand.
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