In a tale of two towers, investing superstar Bill Gross may soon be looking down at his former colleagues at Pimco.
The brand-new high-rises — taller than the other boxy office buildings surrounding the high-end Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach — are twins of a sort: each designed by New York's Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, each sheathed in beige Italian travertine.
One of them, the recently opened 20-story tower at 650 Newport Center Drive, is occupied entirely by the world's most prominent bond trading firm: Pacific Investment Management Co. That's where Gross, known to Wall Street as the "bond king," used to work — until he quit abruptly last month, after clashing with other executives.
Two blocks away, the 520 Newport Center tower is in final construction, with leasing underway and one prominent client already in place: Bill Gross, now working for Janus Capital Group, a Denver mutual-fund company.
Gross, 70, is lodged in one of the few completed suites in the 520 building, on a lower level, according to four people with knowledge of his arrival. The deal was done in a flash, starting the day before his departure from Pimco was announced — Friday, Sept. 26 — and concluding the day after.
"Bill Gross toured the space on Thursday, signed the lease on Friday, then moved in on Saturday," said one of the four people, all of whom were briefed confidentially on his arrival and asked not to be identified.
The arrival has set tongues wagging. Workers at offices in the area have been trading tales about sightings of Gross, another of the four people said: "A gentleman was seen being escorted from the building to his car by two men in dark clothing this week."
The once and perhaps future bond king is considered likely to move higher as the Janus operation mushrooms and construction is completed, another person said. One distinct possibility is taking over a floor or more atop the tower, with Santa Catalina Island looming large in the Pacific Ocean to the southwest and, on a clear day, views of the Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles skylines to the northwest.
The 520 Newport Center building tops out at 21 stories, or 315 feet, compared with 20 floors, or 295 feet, at the Pimco building. That means Gross would be peering down on his former colleagues — a position some at Pimco had complained he assumed all too frequently in the past.
Janus spokesman Steven Shapiro said the company would not release details about the office size or number of employees until next week. The company emailed clients and prospects Friday about a teleconference to be held Thursday with Gross and Janus Chief Executive Dick Weil.
An Irvine Co. statement was coy: "Newport Center is a hub for the financial industry, and we are always talking with companies about locating there. But we do not have any news to announce today."