The second task is to lead the company into other areas and make those investments pay off. Bloomberg has launched what it hopes will become indispensable data products for fields like law and government and also for back-office personnel within finance. Then there’s the media business, which includes a news service, television, radio and magazines, among them Bloomberg Businessweek, which was purchased in 2009. Businessweek still isn’t profitable, but it’s losing much less money than it used to. The magazine, like the rest of the news operation, serves another objective in the Bloomberg ecosystem, Mr. Doctoroff said: heightening the firm’s profile so it can attract more market-moving scoops, which in turn helps to sell more terminals.
“You have to think of news for us, in all of its forms, as an integral part of this much bigger product,” Mr. Doctoroff said between spoonfuls of yogurt.
A few weeks after we meet, a mini-scandal erupts. The virtuous cycle described by Mr. Doctoroff has taken a vicious turn: Bloomberg reporters had access to certain details about terminal users and were mining that information to further their stories. For instance, reporters could see when subscribers had last logged in to the system, a move akin to punching a time clock in the financial industry.
Mr. Doctoroff immediately cut off reporters’ access to the information and apologized to clients. For some customers – which include not just Wall Street firms but central banks – the episode was an uncomfortable reminder of how deeply Bloomberg’s terminals are embedded in their work.
The incident does not appear to have had any impact on the number of subscribers. Mr. Doctoroff convened two separate reviews of Bloomberg’s practices, which will wrap up next month. The first is examining how Bloomberg handles client data and the second focuses on the relationship between the company’s news and commercial operations.
“There’s probably never been a news organization as large and arguably, as influential, that has the kind of relationships that we do from a commercial perspective with the people the news organization is covering,” said Mr. Doctoroff in a recent follow-up phone conversation. The review is a way “to step back and say, ‘Look, we’re in a different world now.’ ”
Mr. Doctoroff allowed that recent months “haven’t been my most relaxing period” at Bloomberg. However, he added, “Having been in government and having been the object of some controversy, [I] recognize that what’s important as you go through these things is to retain some perspective.”
During Mr. Doctoroff’s six years at City Hall, he had both admirers and detractors. Among those in the former category, count the current mayor (like Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Doctoroff was paid a salary of $1 during his time in government). In the latter category were some city and state officials, who took umbrage at what they saw as arrogance.
New York’s Olympic bid ultimately failed – the 2012 games went to London instead – but some of the redevelopment projects it envisaged went ahead anyway, championed by Mr. Doctoroff.
He also spearheaded an initiative to prepare the city for two decades of future growth and make it more environmentally sustainable. One goal was to begin girding New York for a changing climate, a threat Mr. Doctoroff witnessed firsthand last October.
Standing near Manhattan’s West Side Highway, he watched the waters of the Hudson River roll up on to the island at high tide during the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. He was there to keep watch on a Bloomberg data centre, which was unscathed. The eerie drive home, through dark and deserted streets, has stayed with him. “Sitting there that night, you obviously worry about the place that you love,” he said.
Mr. Doctoroff never expected to end up in New York. He grew up in a suburb of Detroit, the eldest of four brothers. He has childhood memories of driving the 401 on family road trips and getting thrashed by pint-sized Canadian adversaries at hockey tournaments. “Fortunately, there was a mercy rule at, like, 9-to-nothing,” he recalled with a laugh.