Bloomberg Cover Story


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Profile feature on the media magnate and billionaire mayor of New York City.

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Bloomberg Cover Story

  1. 1. 20Profile Portfolio Cover Story The BILLIONAIRE MAYOR Michael Bloomberg has spent over $150 million to get a job that pays him a yearly salary of $1. But as he gave away $235 million to charity last year, making him the leading individual donor in the US, rest assured he can afford it. Nick Rice reports on the media magnate mayor of New York City, who loves his job so much that he wants a third term. Portfolio
  2. 2. 21March 2009
  3. 3. 22Profile A s the mayor of New York president took place four decades on from City, Michael Bloomberg evokes the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. a few clichés. But in the interest January 20, 2009 was a monumental of avoiding all but one, lets just day that represented a huge step towards say he has made it there – and Dr. King’s dream of a non-violent perhaps he could have made it anywhere realisation of racial equality. – but the point is that Bloomberg is not The shifting winds of time cannot interested in anywhere. He quite clearly be taken for granted though and to loves the Big Apple. And that is where he quote Dr. King, “Change does not roll definitely wishes to remain as he recently in on the wheels of inevitability, but had a controversial bill passed by the City comes through continuous struggle. Council that will allow him to run for an And so we must straighten our unprecedented third term as mayor. backs and work for our freedom.” Bloomberg is a self-made multi- billionaire media mogul who took on the role of mayor less than four months after the World Trade Center attacks of September 9, 2001. He is not only the richest resident of the ‘capital city of the world,’ but also the hands-on man who toils for the good of all New Yorkers and accepts only a dollar a year for a salary. He’s not a caped crusader, more a subway rider with acute business acumen and a billion dollar bank account. His persistent personal ambition and commitment to New York continues to usher in new challenges and prospects. In these dramatic historical times one word has risen to the surface over and over again – change. Change was the integral message upholding Barack Obama’s Presidential “He is not only the richest resident of the ‘capital city of the world,’ but also the hands-on man who toils for the good of all New Yorkers and accepts only a dollar a year for a salary.” campaign and his election is evidence the Hard work is something that Michael USA is hungry for it. Bloomberg is familiar with and few would The voters weren’t alone. The rest of the contest his dedication to giving New world watched with bated breath, hoping Yorkers the opportunity to lead the best life that the US administration would do possible. He has improved many aspects of exactly that – change. the great city and aims to forge many more And it happened. The world tuned in changes, thereby leading the rest of the as the first black president in American nation by example. history was inaugurated. Obama’s entry Equality for all has always been high on into the annals of history as the 44th the agenda since Bloomberg took office Portfolio
  4. 4. 23and he is faced with no small task there.Forty per cent of New York’s populationwas born outside the United States. Suchdiversity could potentially be a breedingground for prejudice, intolerance and highcrime rates. The statistics, however, showquite the opposite to be true. According tothe FBI, New York is the safest big city inthe country. Crime is at a 40-year low andalmost 30 per cent lower than it was whenBloomberg became mayor. Bloomberg recognises the importantcontribution made by immigrants to thecity and takes a clear position on issuesof homeland and domestic security. Hehas criticised social conservatives for the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Memorial Day Parade in Douglaston tounrealistic aim of deporting some commemorate US service people.March 2009
  5. 5. 24 12 million people instead of granting legal associates with bureaucracy and repay, Bloomberg took a job with Salomon and permanent status. government institutions, but Bloomberg Brothers. He started in the trenches In support of immigration reform to delivered the service successfully. Three counting bonds and stock certificates secure the rights of ‘law-abiding’ illegal simple numbers created an immensely in the basement vaults. He quickly rose immigrants he has quoted the Declaration valuable method of making millions of through the ranks to salesman, next he of Independence, saying: “As long as New Yorkers feel closer to their city and ran his own trading desk, before finally America remains a nation dedicated to the made assimilation easier. assuming control of the trading firm’s proposition that ‘all men are created equal, It is a remarkable service but it wasn’t information systems. endowed by their Creator with certain exactly new ground for Bloomberg. He With a lifelong love of technology it was unalienable Rights, that among these are is certainly no stranger to providing only natural for Bloomberg to question Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,’ information on demand to millions of how investors and traders got access to people from near and far will continue to people. In fact that is exactly how he essential market data. This was an era seek entry into our country.” built his eponymous media empire – of pencils and paper, calculators and Bloomberg L.P. ticker tape machines. No computers or One bold and unifying move Bloomberg learned the value of hard interlinked networks, and certainly no Bloomberg took early on in his first term work from a young age. Born in 1942 in world wide web. If Bloomberg needed as mayor was the implementation of Boston to middle-class parents, he was to check the price of a commodity the 311 number. This service allows any brought up in Medford, Massachusetts. from three weeks ago he had to find citizen to call up a live operator and ask He studied electrical engineering at John an old copy of the Wall Street Journal. “I don’t owe any unions, I don’t owe any newspapers, I didn’t ask anybody for any money, and I’m a question or report a problem regarding Hopkins University and paid his not a political their neighbourhood, city, or city own education fees by working as government. That’s eight million people a car park attendant and taking guy, I don’t even in the ‘city that never sleeps’ who are able out loans. From college he went care about the to call for information that is available in on to Harvard Business School no less than 170 languages. And let’s be and gained a Masters in Business parties.” honest, New Yorkers are not shy about Administration. The next stop making a complaint. was Wall Street. Arriving in New Innovative and efficient customer York in 1966 with little money service is not something one normally and a string of student loans to Portfolio
  6. 6. 25 ProfileTrades were recorded in oversized was renamed Bloomberg L.P. and by of Bloomberg’s beliefs run contrary to theledgers and even by the standards of 1987 it had installed 5,000 Bloomberg Republican platform – he is staunchlythe day, Bloomberg felt the system to terminals. The number continued to grow, pro-choice, in favour of stricter gun lawsbe archaic and in need of overhaul. doubling and trebling over the years. To and regards the Republican position on His chance came in 1981 when, after date Bloomberg L.P. has sold more than stem cell research as ‘insanity’. However he15 years at Salomon, the company 250,000 subscriptions to its information has often stated that he is not a politicallyretrenched him during a merger with service and employs more than 10,000 driven person.Phillip Brothers. He received a $10 people in more than 135 offices He funded his campaign for the mayor’smillion severance package and soon after worldwide. In the early 90s Bloomberg position entirely with his own money,his dismissal he laid the foundation of diversified and launched radio, TV, spending somewhere in the region ofhis future success. In a one-room office publishing and Internet operations that $75 million and remaining beholden toin New York with a view of an alleyway, collectively reach hundreds of millions no one. Commenting on this he said, “Ia coffee machine, and three employees, of people around the globe. don’t owe any unions, I don’t owe anyhe founded Innovative Market Systems. With the huge success of his company newspapers, I didn’t ask anybody for any With no technology available toexecute the idea of providing real time,consistent market data to multiplerecipients simultaneously, they created itthemselves. They devised a machine that (L-R) New York Giants Michael Strahan, Mayor Michael bloomberg and Giants Quarterback, Eli Manning, during the New York Giants Victory Parade.was essentially a financial information Bloomberg began to concentrate on civic money, and I’m not a political guy, I don’tcomputer. It revolutionised how Wall and philanthropic endeavours, giving even care about the parties.”Street did business by collecting, storing generously both his time and funds to Clearly, Bloomberg is more a man ofand analysing past and present securities numerous charitable, educational and facts and pragmatism rather than politicsinformation and delivering it to multiple cultural institutions. and ideology.users on demand. Initially named the Bloomberg entered into public life Bloomberg’s aim was to succeedMarketMaster it came to be known as officially when he decided to run for the lauded Rudy Giuliani who’s twothe Bloomberg terminal. In 1982 Merrill mayor in 2001. Despite being a lifelong consecutive terms was at the mayoral limit.Lynch became the first client by ordering Democrat, he decided to run for mayor as Voting in the primary election to see who22 MarketMasters. In 1986 the company a Republican. This was surprising as many would win the Republican nominationMarch 2009
  7. 7. 26Profile to run for Mayor began on the morning instigated a boom of building development own money on the campaign but it was a of September 11, 2001. The tragedy of and revitalised many public spaces. The landslide victory that saw the most diverse that fateful day postponed the voting, crime rate dropped by 20 per cent and coalition of support in New York’s history. but eventually Bloomberg beat former he supported small businesses that in It was also the first time that two successive congressman Herman Badillo and became turn created more jobs. People expected a Republican Mayors had been elected in the the Republican nominee. crippled economy but Bloomberg turned predominantly Democratic city. the budget from billions in deficit into Bloomberg continued to build on the A major theme in Bloomberg’s billions in surplus. successes of his first term and added major subsequent campaign to secure the Such was the level of success and public new initiatives in reducing poverty and Mayor’s position was that with the city’s approval for his first term that Bloomberg tackling illegal guns, as well as developing economy plunged into jeopardy following stormed into office for a second term. a sustainable future for New York with the attacks, New York needed a mayor He still spent around $80 million of his his PlaNYC plan. This constitutes an with business experience. With a huge spending advantage and Giuliani’s endorsement, Bloomberg was inaugurated as the 108th mayor on January 1, 2002 with Giuliani’s words ringing in his ears – “Don’t fail our people”. Bloomberg was thrust into the spotlight with a less than enviable task at hand. He was replacing a man who had been at the helm for eight years and whom the entire nation upheld as a national hero for the steady and compassionate leadership in the aftermath of the attacks. Bloomberg also faced an economic slump and grim predictions of a slow and painful recovery. After a period of cold, intense scrutiny by politicians, media and New Yorkers, Bloomberg began to effect positive change in his beloved city and capitalised on the defiance and spirit of unity that defined New York after 9/11. The city dusted itself off and came back faster and stronger than ever. Bloomberg focussed his efforts on several central issues. Beginning with public health, he implemented ambitious strategies and banned smoking in restaurants and bars. With education he managed what previous mayors had been unable to do for decades and wrestled back mayoral control of a failing and unaccountable Board of Education. Before long standards in schools and classrooms across the city improved and graduation rates began to rise. The education system has since seen a complete turn around with results at record levels. Bloomberg also From left: Washington Mayor Anthony Williams, New York City Mayor Michael concentrated on affordable housing and Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Portfolio
  8. 8. 27environmental promise to confront theissue of global warming, plant one milliontrees and slash greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2030. Bloomberg posits environmental issuesas being of the utmost importance andprior to the Presidential election hecriticised the candidates positions as tooweak and unfocused. Addressing a UNsummit on climate change he proclaimedthe issue as equally important, if notmore so, than nuclear proliferation andterrorism as in the long term it “has thepotential to kill everybody”. In 2007 Bloomberg declared himselfan independent. Not being affiliated witheither party fuelled speculation that he mayone day run for president. If he formedhis own party he would be able to fund hisown campaign, but he consistently refutesany designs on the White House. remain a contentious issue but there can “Time and again, we be little disagreement that BloombergFor now, Bloomberg’s sights are firmly have faced moments of has the financial clout to face the currentset on that unprecedented third term as truth. And each time, we economic challenges and that he isNew York City’s mayor. Over the past eight have pulled together as dedicated to seeing New York prosper.years he has done a great job in unifying New Yorkers and comeNew Yorkers, but his unwavering desire to Delivering the State of the Citystay in office has acutely divided opinion. out stronger, together. Address in January this year his convictionMany citizens bemoan that the decision to An economic recession to triumph in the face of adversity was clear.overturn the two-term limit wasn’t made has never stopped New “Time and again, we have facedby a public vote in a referendum, but rather Yorkers from being bold moments of truth. And each time, weapproved by City Council with backing have pulled together as New Yorkers and and ambitious.”from the business community. come out stronger, together. An economic As when he first took office post 9/11, highs. One thing that is not in doubt is that recession has never stopped New YorkersBloomberg cites his business experience Bloomberg is willing to invest over $100 from being bold and ambitious. If it had,as qualifying him to be the best person million of his own money in the city. This we wouldn’t have built Central Park, or thefor confronting the current adverse would result in the strange fact that since Empire State Building or Brooklyn College.economic circumstances. Addressing a first running for mayor he will have spent a Over the history of our city – no matternews conference he said, “Handling this quarter of a billion dollars to ensure he has how severe the blow we’ve been dealt, nofinancial crisis while strengthening services a job that pays him $1 a year. matter how uncertain the future – we haveis a challenge I want to take on. I plan to Still, that is cheap for three terms always found the strength and optimismask New Yorkers to look at my record of as mayor considering that Bloomberg to rise to new heights, as New Yorkers,independent leadership and then decide if donates a similar amount in a single together. No one better exemplifies thatI have earned another term.” year to select causes. According than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We all When the mayoral election comes around to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, know how in his first speech as President,in November he may have a chance given Bloomberg donated $235 million FDR reminded us that the only thing wehow well New York is faring in the global to more than 1,200 organisations had to fear was fear itself. But you may notcrisis. In 2008, New York City garnered an in 2008, making him the leading know that on the last full day of his life, heestimated 47 million visitors and $30 billion individual donor in the United States. wrote: ‘The only limit to our realisation ofin total spending, both of which are record The granting of a third term may tomorrow will be our doubts of today’.” nMarch 2009