| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Pimco, the world's largest bond fund manager, said on Wednesday the firm had appointed four additional deputy chief investment officers ahead of CEO Mohamed El-Erian's departure.
Mark Kiesel, Virginie Maisonneuve, Scott Mather and Mihir Worah, currently managing directors at Pacific Investment Management Co., will join Dan Ivascyn and Andrew Balls as deputy chief investment officers.
"Our six deputy CIOs demonstrate the strength, depth and breadth of investment talent at Pimco," Bill Gross, co-founder of Pimco, said in a statement. "Individually and as a team they have delivered for clients consistently, and they will now help lead Pimco's investing excellence into the future."
El-Erian, who had been widely seen as the heir apparent to Gross, will leave the firm in mid-March. Gross, who shared the title of co-chief investment officer, will become the sole CIO. El-Erian will remain a consultant at Allianz (ALVG.DE), the German insurer that owns Pimco.
Even though Allianz quickly appointed Douglas Hodge as chief executive officer last week plus six new deputy CIOs to replace El-Erian, analysts and investors agree that none are real contenders for Gross' job right now.
"I think that it is very clearly an effort on Bill Gross and Pimco's part to reassure clients, in particular, that not only have they worked on succession planning in the past but that there are real people identified in that process to take over if necessary," said Morningstar senior research analyst Eric Jacobson.
He added: "I just don't see any single heir apparent at this point. I do think it remains an open question whether any of these folks are in a position to truly challenge Bill Gross's investment ideas and macro thinking."
The management restructuring comes at a time when many investors are turning their backs on the kind of bond investments Pimco is famous for offering.
Customers withdrew $41.1 billion of money from Pimco's flagship Total Return Fund last year, a record amount for the $2 trillion manager, according to investment research firm Morningstar.
Pimco also said that managing directors Charles Lahr and Marc Seidner will leave, while Sudi Mariappa will re-join as a managing director and generalist portfolio manager.
Mariappa will return to Pimco from GLG where he has served since 2012 co-managing that firm's absolute return fixed income offering. He was previously at Pimco from 2000-2011 as a managing director, portfolio manager and senior advisor.
Pacific Investment Management Co. had $1.92 trillion in assets as of December 31, according to the firm's website.
(Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Rosalind Russell)