For the first 43 years of his career, Pimco founder Bill Gross thought it was acceptable to issue demerits to people who looked him in the eye or spoke to him. So in February, when he was more or less forced to figure out how, at the age of 70, to act like a pleasant person, or face even more high level departures by people who suffer from debilitating conditions that cause them to make eye contact, it was obvious he had a rough road ahead of him.
Not wanting to read more articles about how he made someone write a $10,000 check for sitting, or slashed another’s bonus for failing to include a ‘p.37′ on a powerpoint presentation, Gross worked hard at the task at hand, and meaningful progress was made. Most notably, investment committee meetings “now take place in a room with a round table, rather than a rectangular one as in the past,” which according to Gross, has made people more comfortable and willing to speak (period, and also to express a difference of opinion with the boss).
But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you thought there wouldn’t be setbacks on the road from being a guy who “humiliate[s] people for stumbles” and instills such fear in them that they “recall nights [they were] so scared of being fired for mistakes [they] could not sleep” to a guy people want to be around, you thought wrong.
There are signs Mr. Gross is maintaining at least some of his former approach. In mid-May, during a meeting of about 20 Pimco executives at the firm’s investment committee, Mr. Gross halted Jeremie Banet, a French-born executive vice president and portfolio manager, while he was sharing his views. “I never understand what you’re saying,” Mr. Gross said, according to people in the room. “Ever.” A day after the exchange, Mr. Banet announced his resignation and said he planned to operate a food truck sellingcroque-monsieur sandwiches in Los Angeles.
Reversions to instinctual jackass-ery aside, Gross wants to make this work. He’s already on the phone with his sponsor and has booked extra sessions for the rest of this month with his team of highly trained specialists. By Summer 2015, his only interpersonal problem is going to be juggling all the backyard BBQ invites from employees who suddenly find themselves wanting to spend more time with him, and outside the office to boot.
Related: Mohammed El-Erian May Have Left Pimco Because Of A Chronic And Debilitating Condition That Caused Him To Regularly Look People In The Eye; Don’t Get Caught On “His” Side: A Survival Guide For Pimco Employees; Pimco Investor Considering Pulling Out Over Secretariat’s Erratic Behavior, Some Other Stuff; The New Bill Gross Doesn’t Bite (And If He Does It’s Only Because Old Habits Die Hard); Cheesecake And Kisses: Bill Gross Reflects