‘The Bond King’ teaches readers through PIMCO founder’s story

Meshal Muhammad

In “The Bond King: How One Man Made a Market, Built an Empire, and Lost It All,” podcast host Mary Childs writes a biographical account of famous bond investor Bill Gross, who was dubbed the eponymous nickname for his successful predictions on the direction of bond markets before the 2008 financial crisis.

The book traverses through interesting and relevant subjects including the 2008 financial crisis and Gross and others’ time at PIMCO, the investment managing firm that the “Bond King” founded in 1971.

The last part of the book details the internal battles of PIMCO after taking the reader through its creation in the first half of the book.

Readers get to learn about Gross as a young man who would gamble for over 16 hours a day after being inspired by books. He tried to hack the casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. When he started building his bond empire, he actualized his passion for being an investor.

Readers also get to observe what led to Gross’ downfall through the recounting of his departure from PIMCO. This includes divorce and poor performance at another investment management company, which is quite the emotional roller coaster ride, even depressing at times.

This book is great for readers who want to learn about the bond market and different fixed income products. Childs does a great job of clearly explaining and defining terms for the reader’s ease.

The highlight of the book is its description of the 2008 financial crisis and how the government worked with investment managers like PIMCO and BlackRock Inc. to stabilize the situation.

Childs’ inclusion of important definitions and context around why the markets reacted the way they did makes the book much easier and enjoyable to get through. She gives readers insight to the crux of the dilemma without overcomplicating it, making this a great introductory read to the financial crisis.

The book sometimes feels more like a history of PIMCO rather than a biography of the founder.

One surprising takeaway is insight on succession planning, or how companies find it difficult to have a strong identity and footing without the presence of the founder during a transitional period.

Gross’ departure from PIMCO and the factors that lead to it help readers better understand the kind of issues that can hinder the long-term outlook of a company.

His frail relationships with other PIMCO executives, the uneasy work environment he helped foster and his departure showcases why succession planning is at the forefront of many companies’ minds. Childs gives a tutorial on what not to do.

Ultimately, the book is a good read worth picking up, if not only for the character who is the “Bond King.”