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Bill Gross may be nasty, but returns have been great: "PIMCO showdown” reporter

Daily Ticker

Wall Street Journal special writer Greg Zuckerman’s piece about the showdown at the world’s biggest bond firm, PIMCO, is still generating big reactions. Zuckerman delved into why CEO and co-CIO Mohamed El-Erian’s left the firm last month and Zuckerman revealed unflaterring details about PIMCO co-founder and CIO Bill Gross (he compares himself to the famed thoroughbred "Secretariat" and discourages employees from making eye contact with him, especially in the morning).

Zuckerman joins us in the video above to address all of the responses to his story.

Gross responded to Zuckerman's story in a CNBC interview Tuesday, saying he thinks the article's reporting on PIMCO's "autocratic style" and Gross's conflict with El-Erian is "overblown." Of the article's message that Gross needs to share more of the power, he points to a plan they came up with before El-Erian's departure, to share responsibility with six deputy CIOs.

Zuckerman says on paper the plan makes sense, but PIMCO insiders he's interviewed are skeptical Gross will share power. 

Meanwhile, pundits have weighed in.

Felix Salmon makes the argument that PIMCO's clients are fixed income investors, meaning they’re conservative. They hate unnecessary risks like, say, putting "billions in the hands of a cantankerous old man who always thinks that he’s right and that everybody else is wrong." Salmon writes that the "only way to save PIMCO is for Gross to leave the firm entirely."
Others have come out in defense of Gross. A Bloomberg View piece argues institutional investors hire PIMCO to run money for them not because they are looking for a safe, conservative steward. They're looking for a manager than can beat benchmarks by betting aggressively, and Bill Gross has been that manager for years.

"It's a bit much to say [Gross] should retire," responds Zuckerman. "Keep in mind the guy still had really good returns and he's got a career of great returns." He may be difficult to work with, he's testy, he can be nasty, Zuckerman adds, but the returns have been great.

Others have weighed in that successful businessmen tend to be eccentric characters. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen echoed that sentiment, writing on Twitter: "So I read this story and I literally think to myself, boy, that sounds like Apple, Oracle, Intel, Cisco, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft." In other words, this type of behavior is present at many massively successful companies.

Zuckerman calls for a plan where Gross can groom a new heir apparent and move to share power as the recipe to keep PIMCO a successful firm.

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