Michael Bloomberg: a master of many guises

Michael Bloomberg launched his financial data company after getting fired from Wall Street. Could the billionaire media magnate and former New York mayor now become president? 

Michael Bloomberg © Getty Images
Bloomberg: a reputation for smarts, sharp edges and occasional crassness

"No-one is more closely associated with New York City's 21st century renaissance than Michael Bloomberg," says The New York Times. Despite some personal flaws "crankiness, a tin ear" and a few "policy fiascoes", the Boston-born technocrat and self-made multibillionaire (worth $54bn) was a transformative mayor between 2002 and 2014. "Crime plummeted, schools improved, racial tensions eased, the arts flourished, tourism boomed and city coffers swelled."

New York to Washington?

Yet for all his accomplishments, he remains an enigma. Small in stature, with "a leaden tongue for public speaking and a business background based in dull analytics", he is "fascinating as a study of multi-sector success without star quality". "I offer myself as a doer and a problem-solver not a talker," says Bloomberg, 77. That much is evident from his career path, says Joshua Chaffin in the Financial Times. Born into a working-class family, he showed no great early academic promise but nonetheless got into the prestigious John Hopkins University and then Harvard Business School.

On graduation in 1966, Bloomberg headed for Wall Street, joining Salomon Brothers where he "earned a reputation for smarts, sharp edges and occasional crassness". That came back to bite him: "To his surprise but not that of his colleagues he was sacked after a 1981 merger." Bloomberg, then 39, rebounded from this setback in style. The following year, he ploughed his $10m severance into a new company called Innovative Market Systems. The plan was to sell financial data using a dedicated hardware terminal, initially called Market Master, noted The Fast Company in 2015.

Making it big

By the end of the decade, sales of the renamed Bloomberg Terminal were growing at some 30% a year. "By definition, any computing platform invented in the first half the 1980s" that has continued to survive "has accomplished something remarkable".

Bloomberg seriously "upset" established incumbents Dow Jones and Reuters a David-and-Goliath feat that impressed many of his fellow tycoons, says Chaffin. Rupert Murdoch once described him as "the most creative media entrepreneur of our time". Now he is "wielding his $54bn fortune like a bludgeon". Grabbing the White House might still seem "far-fetched" but then so has most of his career so far.

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