Bill Gross PR Nightmare Gets Worse

Bill Gross PR Nightmare Gets Worse

Bill Gross must have never heard of the political saying “when you are digging a hole for yourself, stop digging.” After being dragged through the mud by the financial press over the messy exit of his Co-Chief Investment Officer, and heir apparent, Mohamed El-Erian at PIMCO money management firm, Gross’s ego must have convinced him to sit down for a “no holds barred” interview with Bloomberg News. The result is a Businessweek cover story titled “Am I Really Such a Jerk?” that paints Gross, who oversees management of almost $2 trillion for PIMCO, as an unstable jerk and is a PR nightmare for the firm. According to the article:

“Bill Gross may have built the image as perhaps the most influential financial manager of the past two decades, yet his stories involve an equal mix of whimsy and sheepishness, with fragments of Joni Mitchell songs, Howdy Doody vignettes, and references to classic American diner food offered in the singsong voice of a Dr. Seuss character. But it’s his tendency to speak about himself in the third person that takes the most getting used to. “Our Gross has not been a happy camper for the last two months,” he says one morning in late March, sighing deeply. “But an unhappy captain still has to steer the ship through the rocks.”

Gross added to the damage to PIMCO and his own tattered reputation by sitting down on April 10 for a Bloomberg Television interview with the author of the Businessweek article, Sheelah Kolhatkar. Although Gross tries to use the interview to emphasize his historic success managing bonds, he takes no responsibility for his recent poor investment performance and the withdrawal of almost $100 billion of investor money from PIMCO. Gross clearly lacks any redeeming qualities of remorse. He only complains about being victimized by the press for using his own words against him. 

Rather than speaking like a real manager about the efforts he should be taking to unite the PIMCO employees in their time of turmoil, Gross complains about the personal pain he has suffered over his self-inflicted damage to the reputation of PIMCO and its staff. “It’s been like a near-death experience, an emotional blow.” Gross only recognizes his own pain: “Whenever I read the newspaper I say to myself, ‘At least my wife loves me.'”

Before the El-Erain fiasco, Bill Gross already had a reputation as an autocratic leader whose controlling style led to hostile work environment and high turnover of PIMCO senior management. But even after his supposedly “near-death experience,” Gross makes clear has no intention of changing the way he treats people when he says: “It’s not always necessarily a productive process to have everyone leave the meeting with smiles on their faces. Maybe there should be a grain of sand in the oyster to produce the pearl, maybe there should be some conflict.” There are not very many people who would like to work with a guy like Bill Gross as their daily speck of sand each day.