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Rekenthaler Report

PIMCO's Perils

How serious are they?

Taking a Body Blow
The Wall Street Journal created a buzz with last week's feature story on PIMCO. The article was business reporting at its finest--inside coverage of a major organization at a crisis point. When Mohamed El-Erian, the company's former CEO, announced in January his resignation from PIMCO, it raised suspicions among industry observers. El-Erian was 14 years younger than his boss, chairman Bill Gross, and was viewed as his successor. The Journal's Gregory Zuckerman uncovered the personality clash that led to El-Erian's departure, in a colorful and well-written account.

PIMCO is tough on its employees. Newport Beach, Calif., might evoke the image of Jeff Spicoli, but just as Sean Penn was wired far more tightly than was his surf-loving character, so too is Bill Gross' PIMCO a less sunny place than its oceanfront office suggests. Per The Wall Street Journal's account, employees can anger Gross merely by speaking to him, or looking him in the eye as he walks by. Adding to the stress caused by personal intimidation are long work hours (investment professionals are expected to work from 4:30 a.m. until at least 5 p.m., as well as be available on weekends as required), the expectation of consistently good investment performance, and a climate that encourages internal competition. It is not what one would call a collegial workplace.