Gundlach discussed succeeding Bill Gross at PIMCO: testimony

LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:26pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Star bond fund manager Jeffrey Gundlach was in discussions to leave Trust Company of the West and succeed Bill Gross at Pacific Investment Management in 2009, according to court testimony.

"He had been in conversations with PIMCO about joining them," said Roger Brossy, a consultant who worked with Gundlach in 2009.

Brossy testified on Monday in the ongoing trial between Gundlach and his former employer TCW in which hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

PIMCO's Gross beat out Gundlach for Morningstar's "Fixed Income Manager of the Decade" award from 2000-2009, and manages one of the world's largest bond funds at the firm he co-founded.

A PIMCO representative could not immediately comment on the testimony.

TCW fired Gundlach in December 2009 and sued him a month later, accusing him of stealing trade secrets, plotting to form a new company using TCW proprietary information and gutting the firm of its entire mortgage-backed securities team.

Gundlach fired back with a counter-lawsuit, alleging his former employer owed him hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and had secretly plotted to fire him while he was still chief investment officer.

In the weeks following his termination, Gundlach went on to form DoubleLine Capital, along with three of his co-defendants in the case. Roughly 45 TCW employees, largely from the mortgage-backed securities group, followed.

Brossy, an outside management compensation consultant, was involved in separate talks between Gundlach and Western Asset Management Company in mid-2009 -- dubbed "Project Artwork.

As they negotiated Gundlach's possible move to Western Asset Management, Gundlach told Brossy of the PIMCO negotiations, Brossy said on Monday.

"PIMCO wants me to succeed (Bill) Gross," Brossy recalled Gundlach saying in early 2009.

TCW is a unit of French bank Societe Generale (SOGN.PA).

The case in Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles is Trust Co of the West v. Jeffrey Gundlach et al, BC429385.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; editing by Carol Bishopric)