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The bond king & the spin doctor: inside the Gross, Pimco PR war

The bond king & the spin doctor: inside the Gross, Pimco PR war

Bond king Bill Gross's $200 million lawsuit against his former employer Pimco was in part a PR move aimed at restoring his tarnished reputation, according to a publican relations veteran . 

Spin doctor Michael Sitrick, who was hired by Gross's lawyer in 2015, has made the claim in his newly released book 'The Fixer.'

In the book, Sitrick, an experienced crisis manager, says that Gross was subject to negative coverage prior to his departure from Pimco due to reports about the earlier exit of his one-time co-chief investment officer and heir apparent Mohamed El-Erian.

These reports, the book says, painted Gross as the bad guy behind El-Erian's exit, due in part to leaks from senior Pimco managers, including Andrew Balls. 

'Within months Bill Gross, who had been fawned over by the media almost his entire career, was the subject of derision and sarcasm in the press, which published inaccurate accounts of him,' wrote Sitrick in the book. 

The book also paints a picture of the relationship between Gross and El-Erian in the book, calling Gross 'a former blackjack player and a trader at heart,' and El-Erian 'an economist with a more methodical approach.'

'Bill prized bonds, while Mohammed focused on hedge fund-style investments with higher risks, potentially higher returns, and higher fees for Pimco. The divergence in their views would cause a rift in their relationship,' wrote Sitrick.

Sitrick says that the media continued to paint Gross in a negative light following his exit from Pimco, until the narrative was shifted when the veteran manager sued his old firm for $200 million and promised to give the proceeds to charity.

He said the 'brilliantly written' legal complaint was the 'ideal platform' for Gross to tell his story of how he was pushed out by fellow fund managers who wanted a larger share of the bonus pool, a claim which Pimco disputed.

According to the book, Sitrick and his partner Seth Lubove made sure to send out emails to a wave of beat reporters to get the lawsuit's message out and 'correct' coverage that had connected the lawsuit to greed and lust for power.

The long-running legal battle finally ended in March last year after Pimco agreed to pay Gross a settlement of $81 million and recognize his contribution to the firm by naming Gross a director emeritus and establishing an annual Bill Gross Award at the Pimco Foundation.

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