I have to smile as I watch America trying to make sense of Michael Bloomberg’s insurgent presidential run. Journalists and pundits are racking their brains to explain Bloomberg’s improbable, unconventional strategy.
They claim on cable news shows to understand the origins of the lifelong success of this self-made billionaire, media tycoon and three-term mayor of New York City. To that, I propose a word that Bloomberg’s base of Noo Yawkers can appreciate: fuhgeddaboudit!
The Intelligentsia can’t appreciate that Bloomberg is simply repeating his history. The same tactics that he employed to become a billionaire media entrepreneur are the ones he is using again, now, in national politics.
Forgive my arrogance but most of the so-called experts have not got a clue. Why? Because they see Bloomberg as outsiders.
Mike the Boss
But I am different. I worked for Mike Bloomberg’s nascent media company in its early days, from 1993 to 1999. Back then, Mike enjoyed kibitzing with his employees, both in the office, then located at 499 Park Avenue, and at the annual picnic that he threw for the staff and families every summer at his sprawling home in nearby suburban Armonk, N.Y. (The petting zoo was a favorite destination). We pulled together at the holiday party at the Big Apple Circus, too.
I got a pretty good glimpse into his thinking. I had a ringside seat. You see, for a while, my desk was only a few yards from his – heck, if my memory serves me well, the entire company was housed on the same floor when I joined up, in 1993. We were all in it together – topping our then-rival Reuters, then taking down the heavyweights, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Once Again, a Daring Strategy
Once again, my old boss has come up with a daring strategy to push himself into the fray. In the 20th century, it was called the Bloomberg Terminal. It published data better and faster than anyone else on the Wall Street scene. Why did Bloomberg focus on Wall Street? Because that’s where the big money was. Let the mutual fund companies battle for the small-ticket investors.
Now, he is bypassing the traditional Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada smackdowns to focus on Super Tuesday. Why? That’s where the big votes are. Let the other candidates scrap for scraps in small states.
Bloomberg understood how to get the most out of a small, ferociously hard working staff. He was a visionary and an innovator. To supply content on the Bloomberg Terminal, he decreed that we lifelong “print” reporters would now tape and film interviews in the field to accompany our stories. This may have been the first time that a news organization did this – years before the rest of the media joined in.
My most profound memory of Bloomberg was as an innovator who got things done. Period. That's how he conquered the business world. That's how he intends to become our next president.
Mike never worried about offending people with his brashness. I've never met a smarter or more self-confident person. He is the epitome of a leader. He communicates his vision well, and people who believe in it follow him avidly. He commands loyalty. In the old days, we Bloomberg employees joked about "drinking the Kool-Aid." But we did, anyway.
Bumps in the Road
Bloomberg is hardly perfect, of course. If he has fiascoes on the campaign trail, the point of his campaign might be moot. On Feb. 6, the Intercept reported that sizable chunks of Bloomberg’s policy positions had been taken from a plethora of news organizations. Being accused of rampant plagiarism isn't in the playbook of winning friends and influencing people.
He is still trying to explain his support for the controversial stop-and-frisk policy of his NYPD. And there’s the matter of some reckless comments he made way back when, which look especially damaging in the #metoo era.
The media like to discover a New Thing and proceed to build it up until there is nowhere to go but down. That will happen to Bloomberg, too. Just watch. Still, bet against him at your peril. The guy is a winner.