Michael Bloomberg is the 21st-century Monopoly man, minus the monocle, who peddles information and influence instead of colorful real estate. After David Koch, Bloomberg is the second richest businessman in New York City. (At the time of his 2009 reelection, however, he was number one.) Bloomberg also happens to be the mayor, and based on his rare dig at President Obama on Monday, it looks like he's already thinking about the possibility of taking his political ambitions to the national stage once his third term as mayor is up in 2013. For other clues as to what Bloomberg will do after he's finished running New York City, there's the latest issue of Newsweek which features a forward-thinking look at Businessman Bloomberg's privately owned information empire. It's become an increasingly dominant media force that is rumored to have its sights set on acquiring its first newspaper, the globally powerful Financial Times. Probably because of the article's timing — it's been less than a week since Mayor Bloomberg cracked down on the Occupy Wall Street, knowingly enforcing a media blackout of the midnight raid and arresting reporters in the process — the theme of one man's ballooning power is disconcerting for three reasons.
Reason One: Businessman Bloomberg can afford to do whatever he wants. At a time when publicly owned media businesses continue struggling to break even, Bloomberg L.P., of which Michael Bloomberg owns 88 percent, is kicking ass. Thanks to the firehose of revenue provided by his still lusted-after terminals, Bloomberg could not only make his company's newsroom larger than The New York Times, he could simply buy The New York Times Company. Newsweek's Nick Summers offers this illustration:
Comparisons to public companies are inexact, but the New York Times Co. reported $2.4 billion in revenue for 2010, and Thomson Reuters $13 billion. But while Reuters’s operating margin is 19.6 percent, and the Times Co.’s is about 10 percent, Fortune estimates Bloomberg’s to be an astonishing 30 percent.
Reason Two: Politician Bloomberg breaks the rules. This point is a bit more conspiratorial, but it's worth illustrating. As whispers of Bloomberg's potential as a presidential candidate persist, Bloomberg is expanding his customer base to include not only the most influential influencers in the finance industry but also the the power brokers inside the Beltway. Drawing fresh criticism for more or less censoring the crackdown at Occupy Wall Street becomes more startling when imagined at a national scale, because Bloomberg, who successfully changed New York City's term limit laws so that he could run for a third term, doesn't exactly play by the rules. Summers again:
It’s impossible to talk about the aspirations of Bloomberg the business without addressing Bloomberg the man: it is a company owned by a politician, buying companies that influence politicians. For the decade that he has been mayor of New York, he has been officially barred from determining the direction of the company he founded. (Behind the scenes, he does have his say on top hires, acquisitions, and projects that pique his interest, like Bloomberg iPad apps.) When the mayor reenters civilian life on Jan. 1, 2014, his admirers believe his power will only grow.
Reason Three: Politician Bloomberg and Businessman Bloomberg are one in the same. There's just something unavoidably shady about this exchange:
[Bloomberg Government's chairman Kevin] Sheekey, Irish and mischief-eyed, seems to enjoy fanning the acquisition rumors. He’s not just another company exec—a top Michael Bloomberg lieutenant, Sheekey ran his three mayoral bids (and explored a run for the presidency in 2008). "They’d get much more interesting if the company ever bought a newspaper," he says, out of the blue, referring to the View columnists. "Was that on the record?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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