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Michael Bloomberg is returning to the company that bears his name. (Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
Michael Bloomberg is returning to the company that bears his name. (Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

Putting the Michael back in Bloomberg LP Add to ...

Workaholic billionaire with time on his hands seeks challenging opportunity; brings long experience leading largest city in the U.S. and has no desire to slow down.

Ever since Michael Bloomberg left the mayor’s office at the start of the year, he has searched for a role that matches his unusual ambitions and qualifications. Now he appears to have found it: right back at the helm of the company that bears his name, Bloomberg LP, as it faces a changed landscape.

The announcement that Mr. Bloomberg would return to lead the data-and-media giant he founded – displacing its current chief executive, Daniel Doctoroff – took many observers by surprise. Mr. Bloomberg, 72, had repeatedly denied any wish to have a leadership role at the company. Instead, he said he expected to focus on his philanthropic efforts and advocacy on issues such as climate change and gun control.

That all changed in recent months, according to Mr. Bloomberg. “The more time I spent reacquainting myself with the company, the more exciting and interesting I found it,” he said in a statement released late Wednesday.

One problem: The company already had a chief executive. Mr. Doctoroff is a long-time lieutenant and friend of Mr. Bloomberg who served as his deputy in City Hall and then joined Bloomberg LP in 2008. Mr. Doctoroff, 56, offered to step aside to make way for Mr. Bloomberg, the two men said, as Mr. Bloomberg began to take a larger role.

Mr. Doctoroff said there were no significant strategic disagreements between the two men and any frictions were minor ones, related more to process than to substance. “He’ll put his own stamp on things here and there, but I don’t think you should be looking for major changes,” Mr. Doctoroff said in an interview.

But as Mr. Bloomberg began spending a greater portion of his day at the company in recent months, it led to a changed dynamic. For the firm’s employees, Mr. Bloomberg “created the universe, then he went away and became this mythical figure as mayor,” Mr. Doctoroff said in an interview. “When that mythical figure suddenly becomes real … people’s behaviour changes. It just does.”

Mr. Bloomberg is taking over a larger and more diversified company than the one he left to become mayor of New York more than a decade ago. On Mr. Doctoroff’s watch, the company’s annual revenues have grown from $5.4-billion (U.S.) to more than $9-billion. Its operations have expanded beyond its highly profitable core business of providing financial-data terminals for traders and investors into products aimed at support staff, compliance personnel and policy makers.

Some who know Mr. Bloomberg said it wasn’t a total shock that he would return to the company in which he owns an 88 per cent stake. “The key to understanding it is that the name of the company is B-l-o-o-m-b-e-r-g,” said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy at New York University who first met Mr. Bloomberg 20 years ago. The former mayor is “not ready for the senior circuit and golf.”

For Mr. Bloomberg, the current environment presents both openings and possible pitfalls. The financial crisis permanently shrank the number of employees at the banks that are Bloomberg LP’s best customers. Subsequent waves of cost-cutting have also made financial firms more careful about what they spend on data.

Despite that backdrop, Bloomberg LP has managed to increase its revenue from financial data at a rate of almost 6 per cent annually over the past five years, according to data from Douglas Taylor, founder of Burton-Taylor International Consulting LLC.

Unlike when Mr. Bloomberg was last in charge, his firm is also contending with a crop of much smaller, specialized and fast-growing competitors, such as Markit Group Ltd., IRESS Ltd. and S&P Capital IQ. Such companies are “like gnats,” said Mr. Taylor – tiny but bothersome.

The prospect of leading the firm forward seemed to energize Mr. Bloomberg. He “basically fell in love with the company all over again, which he did not expect to happen,” said Mr. Doctoroff. “I’m going to be the last person to ever begrudge him the ability to run his own company.”

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