Bill Thompson, the chief executive of Pacific Investment Management Co., was so eager to hire Alan Greenspan that he did something unusual last September.
He wrote the former Federal Reserve chief a letter. By hand.
The missive so struck Greenspan that he phoned Thompson immediately.
"He said, 'I couldn't resist calling you because it's seldom that I get a letter like this,' " Thompson recalled Wednesday.
It was a small gesture in an aggressive yearlong courtship that paid off this week when Pimco disclosed that it had hired the much-sought-after Greenspan as an outside consultant.
Greenspan will advise the Newport Beach-based bond fund giant on economic and monetary policy in his first consulting gig since he left the Fed in January 2006. Pimco manages nearly $700 billion in assets, mostly in fixed-income securities, so accurate forecasting of interest rate trends is key to the company's investment success.
The 81-year-old Greenspan is in high demand. He has received numerous offers from investment banks, hedge funds, private equity shops and others on Wall Street and in corporate America, according to people close to him.
"When Dr. Greenspan left the Fed, he received more offers than I've ever received for anybody other than former President Clinton," said Robert Barnett, a lawyer for the ex-Fed chief. "It seems that everyone would like him to be part of their efforts."
Greenspan, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment. Pimco would not disclose the terms of its accord with Greenspan, except to say it was a multiyear deal.
An economic consultant early in his career, Greenspan brings two things to Pimco: unmatched credentials in divining economic currents and -- perhaps more important -- marketing cachet.
The former Fed chairman will visit Newport Beach four times a year for quarterly forecasting sessions, Thompson said. He'll also consult regularly with Pimco investment managers, including Bill Gross, who runs the flagship Total Return bond fund.
The fund, which is up 1.3% this year, has trailed most of its peers for much of the last year, according to Morningstar Inc.
That's partly because of Gross' caution about the economy. He has been unwilling to bet heavily on high-yielding corporate bonds because he believes they aren't worth the risk that they will lose value if the U.S. economy slows further.
Greenspan still commands an avid following in financial circles. He helped send global stock markets into a tizzy early this year when he suggested in a speech that the U.S. could slip into a recession.
Greenspan, who spent much of the last year writing a book due out in September, is sifting through other consulting offers. He expects to work for fewer than a dozen clients, a person familiar with his thinking said.
Pimco's courtship began when Thompson and Gross broached the idea to Greenspan at a Pimco investment conference in Dana Point in March 2006. Greenspan said he was tabling any offers until he finished his book. But Thompson followed up with his letter six months later, and the broad contours of a deal were in place by last March, he said.
Thompson didn't realize how coveted the former Fed chief was until someone in Greenspan's office told him that Pimco had "won the sweepstakes" for his services, Thompson said.
Some experts question how much special wisdom Greenspan can offer given that the central bank is now run by his successor, Ben S. Bernanke.
"To be blunt, I think it's marketing," said Barry Ritholtz, head of an economic consulting firm in New York. "I don't know what insight he brings."
Thompson, calling any marketing boost a "byproduct," said Pimco pursued Greenspan for his knowledge and experience.
"His crystal ball may not be better than ours but it gets a lot clearer when you can tap into somebody like Alan Greenspan," Thompson said.
Unlike many former top government officials, whose popularity tends to slip about a year after they step down, Greenspan has remained popular, said Bill Leigh, owner of a speaker's bureau and literary agency based in Somerville, N.J. The ex-Fed chief reportedly commands $150,000 for a speech, but Wall Street consulting pays better.
"That's where the real money, the real influence, is," Leigh said.
Times staff writer Tom Petruno contributed to this report.