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Bond King musical chairs: Gundlach replaces Gross at Barron's Roundtable this month

[NEW YORK] In recent years, bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach has been outperforming his rival Bill Gross. He has even been dubbed the "Bond King" by the media - a title Mr Gross has held for many years. Now, Mr Gundlach has replaced Gross at the January meeting of a high-profile investor panel.

Weekly financial magazine Barron's is not featuring Mr Gross on its Barron's Roundtable this January, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Instead, Mr Gundlach, who has often been critical of Mr Gross's investment calls, was added to the panel of investors.

It is unclear if Mr Gross, who had been a member of the Roundtable for more than a decade, is off the panel permanently or if he is just taking a break.

E-mails and calls to Mr Gross and a spokeswoman for Janus Capital Group, where he is a portfolio manager, were not returned. Mr Gundlach declined to comment.

Barron's deputy managing editor Lauren Rublin said she could not discuss Mr Gross's Roundtable status until Saturday morning, when the next issue of the magazine will be published. A spokeswoman for Barron's publisher, News Corp's Dow Jones unit, said it did not comment on coverage before it is published.

The twice-a-year discussions among the investors attending the Roundtable, are turned into a three-part series in the magazine, usually including front-page billing. Each investor provides their predictions for the markets and the economy, and highlights the investment ideas they think will make money.

Dow Jones says Barron's readership, which averaged 436,000 in the third quarter of last year, has an average household net worth of about US$3 million. The chance to get extensive exposure to that audience means that a place on the Roundtable is coveted by some investors.

Mr Gross, 71, joined Janus after his departure in September 2014 from Pimco, the firm he co-founded and had built into a US$2 trillion powerhouse.

Barron's Roundtable veteran Scott Black of Delphi Management confirmed on Friday that Mr Gross was not at this week's Roundtable in New York City. Black said about Mr Gundlach: "He was very impressive and he was very knowledgeable. I thought he was very smart and well prepared." In 2011, Barron's anointed Gundlach, 56, as the new "King of Bonds" in a cover story.

Mr Gross has posted lackluster results since going to Janus. The Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, which Mr Gross began managing in October 2014, had a negative return of 0.72 per cent in 2015, trailing 41 per cent of its peers, according to Morningstar.

Mr Gross's surprising exit from Pimco came after he had learned that top executives at Pimco and Allianz SE, the German insurer that owns it, had grown tired of his leadership and were weighing a change.

Mr Gundlach's firm, DoubleLine Capital, is thriving on the back of a number of very prescient investment calls.

Last year, Mr Gundlach correctly predicted that oil prices would plunge, junk bonds would live up to their name and China's slowing economy would pressure emerging markets. In 2014, Mr Gundlach correctly forecast US Treasury yields would fall, not rise as many others had expected.

Back in 2014, Mr Gross approached Mr Gundlach and said he was about to be fired by Pimco and broached the possibility of joining forces with Mr Gundlach.

Discussing their potential legacies, Mr Gundlach said Mr Gross at that meeting spun an analogy to National Basketball Association star players Kobe Bryant and the younger LeBron James. "I am Kobe. You are LeBron James," Mr Gross told Mr Gundlach. "I have five rings, you have two rings - probably going to five," a reference to the number of NBA championships the two players have each won.

Those discussions didn't lead to a partnership, and Mr Gross instead went to Janus.

REUTERS