Mohammed El-Erian May Have Left Pimco Because Of A Chronic And Debilitating Condition That Caused Him To Regularly Look People In The EyeBy Bess Levin
Back in January, Mohamed El-Erian announced that he would soon be stepping down from his posts as CIO and co-CEO of Pimco. In the two months since, Bill Gross, his former boss, has promoted six employees to do his job as chief investment officer, and offered at least three reasons why El-Erian actually did the fund a favor by boxing up his things and leaving.
One thing that hasn’t really been discussed all that much, besides in the purely speculative sense, is why El-Erian is leaving. Was it the pull of the academic world? Did he want to spend more time with his mustache? Were the early mornings becoming a grind? Journal reporters Greg Zuckerman and Kirsten Grind spent some time investigating the question and it seems the answer– how to put this?– is that as a boss, Bill Gross has a tendency to act like an insufferable prick.
For those wondering what exactly that entails, herewith, a day in the life of person toiling under BG.
3:45AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze just once, knowing that being late, or even on time but the last person in, will result in an earful about being a worthless contribution to the firm and society at large.
Most Pimco investment professionals arrive at the office around 4:30 a.m.—well before trading opens on Wall Street—and stay until 5 p.m. or later. The firm encourages internal competition, current and former employees say.
7:55AM: Stare at the ceiling while Gross berates you for whispering to a colleague about the performance of a pretty important investment; simply nod in the affirmative when he asks you if you understand what the words “shut the fuck up” mean, knowing that one spoken word could set him off all over again. Agonize over whether or not you accidentally looked him in the eye at any point during the tirade.
On the trading floor, Mr. Gross doesn’t like employees speaking with him or making eye contact, especially in the morning, current and former employees say. He prefers silence and at times reprimands those who break it, even if they’re discussing investments, these people say.
10:47AM: Feel your heart sink as you realize you’re probably going to have your bonus slashed by 65% because there is no “p.33″ on page 33 of your presentation. Debate whether to look at your nails or at the floor as Gross shoots daggers in your direction.
Mr. Gross, who served as a naval officer during the Vietnam War, has strict requirements for presentations to Pimco’s investment committee. He has scolded employees for forgetting to number the pages in their presentations and has given them “communication demerits” that an assistant to Mr. Gross tracks to help determine year-end bonuses, according to people who have worked at Pimco.
1:28PM: Wonder if Gross was serious when he told you to write him a $20,000 check for wearing a single windsor instead of the approved double. Decide he was.
One day about 10 years ago, recalls John Brynjolfsson, at the time a Pimco portfolio manager, Mr. Gross criticized him for not standing when a visiting client toured the trading floor. He recalls Mr. Gross telling him there would be “consequences.” Mr. Brynjolfsson says Mr. Gross suggested that he write a $10,000 check to Pimco’s charitable foundation. Mr. Brynjolfsson, who says he considered the situation a misunderstanding, made the donation.
4:25PM: Kick yourself for forgetting your saddle again, knowing it might’ve been your turn in the rotation to hop on Gross’s back as he galloped around the trading floor shouting out buy orders.
Late last year, in front of a number of traders, Mr. Gross said, “if only Mohamed would let me, I could run all the $2 trillion myself…I’m Secretariat,” referring to the famed thoroughbred. “Why would you bet on anyone other than Secretariat?”
For his part, Secretariat says that he was much more of a nightmare to work for back in the day. (“It had nothing to do with friction,” Gross told the Journal of El-Erian’s departure. “Sometimes people will say ‘Gross is too challenging,’ and maybe so. I would say if you think I’m challenging now, you should have seen me 20 years ago.”)