NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - There are only two explanations for Pimco investment in a troubled North Carolina community bank - either Bill Gross has Warren Buffett envy or he's still bitter about not getting picked to run the government bank bailout back in 2008.
Personally I think it's Buffett envy, but being rejected for the top TARP job a few years back no doubt feeds into motivation to buy ECB Bancorp (ECBE), which Reuters reported is the target of Pimco's new $2.3 billion "Bravo" fund.
Gross must have felt impotent, watching Buffett fly to the rescue of Goldman Sachs and more recently Bank of America, while Pimco's German parent Allianz (AZ)kept Pimco focused on bonds. Now that Allianz unleashed Pimco and untied Gross' hands, he's obviously got a lot of catching up to do.
The ECB engagement isn't really a big deal - Pimco is only dropping about $25 million into the recapitalization of the bank compared with the $5 billion Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway put into Bank of America or the $5.5 billion Buffett loaned to Goldman Sachs, which paid him back in April.In fact, the deal wouldn't be noteworthy at all if Pimco wasn't involved. This must be a feel-good moment for Gross, who seems to be spending about as much time offering commentary on network television as he does running Pimco. It makes perfect sense that after 40 years building Pimco into the world's largest bond fund, its founder may be looking for a capstone for his career. It happens often enough in the investment world that the big players eventually earn enough money to afford the luxury of dabbling in public service. Think about former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who went from CEO of Goldman Sachs to the U.S. Senate and the governor's office. Or how about New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who went from Solomon Brothers to founding the Bloomberg empire to the mayor's mansion. There are too many examples to list them all. I wouldn't be surprised to see Gross end up being tapped for a White House cabinet post at some point, but for now he seems to be following more in Buffett's footsteps, playing the savior while remaining comfortably within the safety of his reputational stronghold at Pimco.