Despite the heavy coverage Mayor Mike has been receiving for announcing his exit from the Republican Party, I have a sneaky feeling that the national media don't understand my old boss. (I worked in close proximity to Mike Bloomberg for his Bloomberg News from 1993 to 1999, before resigning to join MarketWatch.)
To help Beltway journalists and others who may want to know the inside story, I offer my version of Bloomberg 101, what every political maven needs to know:
Sure, Bloomberg hasn't declared himself as a presidential candidate — yet. But I'm reasonably sure he will. He lives for the big stage and loves to beat the odds. He did it in the early 1980s when he left Salomon Brothers with about $13 million in his pocket to launch Bloomberg L.P., an information company for Wall Street traders and other professionals. He then expanded it and added an ambitious news-gathering operation.
It could be argued that one reason that Reuters Group and Thomson Corp. decided they would merge several weeks ago was to crush Bloomberg, their chief rival.
Know this about Bloomberg: He is the smartest guy you're likely to meet. He is profoundly goal-oriented and has a habit of thinking ahead of everyone else.
Even if Bloomberg couldn't win the 2008 election, he'd have a reason for entering the race. Maybe he would want to advance a political issue or put his name out there for the future, or otherwise enhance the value of his company, already worth many billions of dollars.
Mike Bloomberg himself is a billionaire many times over. If he decided to auction his business, he's probably wind up with a net worth in the neighborhood of $15 billion to 20 billion.
I imagine that Bloomberg will bide his time and announce he's running for president later this year. He'll count on a "rope-a-dope" strategy, letting the other candidates burn themselves out on the stump and wear out their welcome with the media and voters. When everyone gets tired with the roster of contenders, Bloomberg will make his move. Timing is everything with him.
So here's my Bloomberg 101: Why will Bloomberg run? He loves beating other folks at their game. I can imagine how much satisfaction Mike must be getting from receiving more publicity lately than his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. The former mayor couldn't have been happy when Bloomberg recently left the Republican Party, because Mike's standing as an independent candidate could eventually threaten Giuliani's chances.
Why is Bloomberg in politics? Conspiracy theorist that I am, I always figured Mike was influenced by "City Hall," the 1996 movie with Al Pacino as a short, brilliant, brassy, ethnic mayor. (Hello, Mike!) Check out the movie sometime.
It may not be easy for reporters to get a lot of "dirt" on Bloomberg. He has a knack for building a super-loyal staff. Sure, Bloomberg paid above-average salaries, but people rallied around him because he created a winning atmosphere and he cared about his employees.
Bloomberg has a short fuse but really means no harm. He will, on occasion, call out a reporter for asking a less-than-intelligent question.
If you're lucky, Bloomberg will favor you with a raunchy joke now and then. When he ran his company, he got a kick out of saying stuff you'd hear in a locker room or on a Wall Street trading desk.
The endearing joke about Bloomberg at one time was that he'd "think Yiddish and dress British." He was regarded as such an Anglophile that people thought his chief goal was someday to be named U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom (or the Court of St. James, as it was once known).
At the recent Time 100 dinner, Medford, Mass., native Bloomberg cited Arnold "Red" Auerbach, the legendary visionary behind the Boston Celtics' championships, as one of his heroes. I've heard that his favorite actresses include, Cybill Shepherd and Sharon Stone. Word also is that he had great affection for "Blazing Saddles."
Perhaps the most helpful piece of information I can impart is Bloomberg's favorite pet expression. It may just be the key to his success, too. It's something he tells colleagues to make sure they don't let him down. It's a four-word statement, or warning: "Don't f*** it up!"
By Jon Friedman