What Is Mike Bloomberg Up To Now?

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by Jon Friedman
January 22, 2014 3:49 PM
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For those of you keeping score at home, the latest rumor is that Michael Bloomberg will try to acquire The New York Times in August. 

While this prospective time table is several months later than a lot of us had expected, it remains consistent with the grand aspirations of the former New York mayor to continue to be an overwhelming presence in the city and the world. Many people half-expected Bloomberg to make a bid about 10 minutes after he left office as the mayor of New York on Jan. 1. (He gets restless rather easily, you know.)

I know, I know. 

You're thinking, Again? We have heard and read about this bit of speculation for years. 

I, myself, will happily take credit for originating the rumor -- there, I said it; it is a rumor -- a few years ago when I wrote a media column a few times a week on the Internet and often appeared on business-news and other cable television channels. So,why do I bother to revive a dormant … rumor.

Thing is, the talk makes too much sense to go away quietly.

The thinking is, if Bloomberg, who has explored and subsequently rejected making a run at the presidency, can't reside in the White House, he will do his damnedest to help influence who does. It's definitely not too early think about 2016, as Time's recent Hillary Clinton cover, asking whether she can be stopped on the left, and the hysteria surrounding the embattled and scandal-tarred New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the right, has proven.

Bloomberg has installed himself back in his company's newsroom and is, according to the New York Times, taking a role in story-assignment decisions (by making pointed suggestions about what constitutes news value in his mind, such as ignoring Alex Rodriguez). By all outward indications, he is re-settling into corporate life.

Call me a conspiracy theorist. But I don't believe a word of the line that Mike Bloomberg will be content to go back home and run Bloomberg for the rest of his days. 

I much more believe the talk that he will use his own money -- he has many billions at his disposal -- to make a run at the New York Times and make a blow-out bid that will make current owner Arthur Sulzberger Jr. capitulate. This strategy worked for Rupert Murdoch when he took over Dow Jones several years back.

Would Bloomberg then turn around and sell his company, Bloomberg L.P.?

I worked for Bloomberg from 1993 to 1999 and learned not to doubt the man's instincts. He is, above all, a Wall Street trader to the core. This is the prism through which he sees the world. So, he knows when to hold em and when to fold em. If he quietly concludes that the value for his news and information company has peaked, he'll get out. Sentiment won't enter into the equation.

What Bloomberg covets and appreciates is power. He made a bet that Bloomberg View, the editorial-writing division of his company, could rival the big boys at the Times. But that hasn't quite panned out (partly because the Bloomberg company disdains public relations for its journalism and employees, so much of the public has never even heard of Bloomberg View). 

Like his homegrown magazine, radio and television operations, Bloomberg View hasn't captured the public's imagination. Bloomberg's biggest success, by far, is his company's terminal sales. Nothing else really enters into the picture.

By acquiring a well known brand name, like Business Week, Bloomberg managed to stake a claim in the consumer-media business. To finish the job, he'd need to own The New York Times. Failing that, he could settle for the prestigious Financial Times. 

But he wants the Times. It's the biggest game in town -- any town. The Mike Bloomberg I knew and worked for doesn't EVER accept a consolation prize, no matter how well respected it might be.

I still believe he'll try to buy the Times. In fact, I believe it more than ever. 







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