UPDATE 4:30 a.m. Thursday — Reaction: “Is this real or The Onion?” one former Bloomberg News journalist joked, reacting to the news from Deadline. “This is the most unsurprising surprise of the year,” noted another, as word of the announcement spread through the Bloomberg samizdat.
Mike Bloomberg has found a job he’ll never have to relinquish because of those annoying term limits: He announced Wednesday that he has returned full time to lead Bloomberg LP, the financial information and news company he founded in 1981 and which endowed him with a fortune of more than $32 billion and no end in sight.
The move comes just eight months after Bloomberg relinquished his temporary job as mayor of New York City, a position he held for three four-year terms, the last of which came only after successfully eliminating the city’s limit of two terms for its chief executive. This time, the term limit applied to Dan Doctoroff, the friend and former deputy mayor whom Bloomberg installed as president of Bloomberg in 2008.
“This is a sad day for me and my company,” said Mr. Bloomberg, prevaricating. “I really wanted Dan to stay and continue in his leadership role. But I understand his decision. I never intended to come back to Bloomberg LP after 12 years as Mayor. However, the more time I spent reacquainting myself with the company, the more exciting and interesting I found it – in large part, due to Dan’s efforts.”
Doctoroff announced his plan to leave (officially at the end f the year), according to The New York Times, after realizing that Bloomberg had fallen back in love with the business he had started from scratch after a career in the financial markets and which now has 15,000 employees in more than 130 bureaus.
Although he had indicated his post-mayoralty would be spent giving away his fortune, it has been clear to the employees at his Lexington Avenue headquarters that Bloomberg had become increasingly involved in the day-to-day operations of the company in which he remains, with 88%, the majority stake holder. “There was no real effort to hide his growing presence,” one senior editor at Bloomberg News (where I worked as an editor and columnist for almost eight years prior to joining Deadline) said Wednesday night. “And we were very aware of friction between Mike and Dan over his second-guessing of Dan.”
Despite restrictions on his day-to-day involvement in running Bloomberg LP while he was in office, it was no secret that he was overseeing Bloomberg’s expansion and response to global financial crises. With Doctoroff at the helm, company’s revenue rose to more than $9 billion, from $5.4 billion, according to the Times, and subscriptions to Bloomberg’s $20,000-a-year data terminals grew to 321,000, from 273,000 despite the collapse of such institutions as Lehman Brothers. Bloomberg also purchased and reinvented BusinessWeek magazine at a time when print magazines were seen as fossils.
The change represents another triumph for Matthew Winkler, editor in chief of Bloomberg News and a close confidant of the ex-mayor. With many newsrooms dwindling, Bloomberg has added more than 500 reporters and editors in recent years, though not without its share of controversies. When Doctoroff hired former Wall Street Journal and Time magazine chief Norman Pearlstine as “chief content editor,” rumors flew that Winkler’s days were numbered. Doctoroff’s disdain for Winkler, if not the entire costly news division, was an open secret. Now, like Pearlstine, Doctoroff is gone.
Perhaps one of the worst moves under Doctoroff can be reversed: While Bloomberg’s personal and public advocacy of the arts and culture were hallmarks of his mayoralty, Bloomberg News abruptly eliminated its highly regarded culture news department last year, putting it at a disadvantage in terms of competition and prestige with such competitors as the Wall Street Journal, the Times and Thomson Reuters. And Mike Bloomberg is nothing if not a prestige competitor.