Bill Gross, co-founder of Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the Bloomberg FI16 event in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Gross, who built a career and a $1.9 billion personal fortune trading bonds, is trying to go short on credit, a position that he said runs contrary to his instincts and training as an investor. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
© Bloomberg

Bill Gross, the one-time “bond king” of Wall Street, is stepping down from the global investment stage after a career spanning five decades in which he managed $300bn at his peak and co-founded bond-investing powerhouse Pimco.

Mr Gross, 74, is quitting Janus Henderson, the asset manager he joined four years ago after an acrimonious split with Pimco, after the investment fund he managed dropped below $1bn this year following client withdrawals and poor performance. He will instead focus on his personal assets and $390m charitable foundation.

Mr Gross appeared to acknowledge the investor flight on Monday when he said in a statement that “without a client, there can be no franchise”. In characteristically colourful language he added: “I’m off — leaving this port for another destination with high hopes, sunny skies and smooth seas!”

Randy Waesche, chief executive of Resource Management, a US financial adviser, said the move was overdue. “It’s like watching a star athlete playing beyond his time. Gross had a great run, but now it’s a good time for him to retire before he loses more client money.”

Mr Gross’s time at Janus marked a spectacular reversal in fortunes for a man once revered as the world’s top bond fund manager after building Pimco into a giant fixed income investment group.

As recently as 2014, Mr Gross oversaw close to $300bn as manager of the world’s biggest bond fund at Pimco. But he struggled to retain clients at Janus.

A former colleague at Pimco said on Monday: “He relied on big calls that didn’t work out. He simply didn’t have the necessary infrastructure around him at Janus Henderson . . . So his track record changed radically in the last few years.”

Dick Weil, Janus chief executive, paid tribute to Mr Gross as “one of the greatest investors of all time”.

But in an interview with CNBC last year, Mr Weil conceded Mr Gross had “made some bad bets”, adding: “He’s been wrong and wrong badly in the short term. And he’s accountable and we’re accountable for that.”

Mr Gross, who has described himself as a “70-year-old Justin Bieber”, became well known for his colourful investment letters, which included discussions of such wide-ranging topics as the pleasures of sneezing and the death of his cat.

His views on fixed income markets were widely followed. In 2016, he warned that the unprecedented bond-buying programmes pursued by central banks after the global financial crisis had created a “supernova that will explode one day”.

Aggressive reduction in benchmark interest rates below zero combined with quantitative easing programmes and investors’ ravenous appetite for bonds resulted in yields on more than $10tn of sovereign debt sinking into negative territory.

Mr Gross said on Monday: “I’ve had a wonderful ride for over 40 years in my career — trying at all times to put client interests first while inventing and reinventing active bond management along the way.”

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