A Different Way

Getting It Right: Why I Like Mike Bloomberg…

Why I like Mike Bloomberg, written by my friend Kevin Foley, is a true story. From the heart.

I met Kevin when he and I and our wives lived in Manhattan Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City. We soon discovered our Buffalo roots and a mutual passion for the Bills. We now share a passion for Mike Bloomberg. —David Stone

By Kevin Foley

Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

These days, I’m often asked by my progressive friends about Mike Bloomberg the billionaire. I understand their instinctive distrust of a person of such wealth. 

Mike Bloomberg, early on, with terminals he used to revolutionize Wall Street.

The story of Mike’s business career is not often told outside of business circles but I believe there is information in Mike’s narrative that’s important for progressives to know.

I’ve known Mike 30 years, worked for him for 15, until he left us to become mayor. 

A ridiculous number of employees from those days know him personally because we all pretty much sat out in one room, and because he took the trouble to explain his strategy to all of us, so we could explain to the customers.

We were well enough compensated, but, except for the three guys that were with him the first day — all good and decent guys, by the way — he didn’t make any of us Wall Street gazillionaires. We’re mostly all still working. 

He never took the company public, there was never any big stock windfall. Which irritated some of us but it never bothered me because he was always giving it away. 

In the 90s, I used to joke with people that I was working to cure cancer, malaria and blindness, which were his giving priorities at the time, and I really meant it. 

I always felt great about it. 

Mike Bloomberg reversed the power structure on Wall Street

They say he’s worth $58 billion but he doesn’t have $58 billion lying around — he just owns the same company he always had, only Forbes says it would fetch that much if he sold it. 

And I don’t doubt it. 

But the company throws off an insane amount of cash and he basically gives it all away.

It’s pretty funny to me that he’s thought of as a Wall Street guy because for so long he was the most hated guy on Wall Street. 

Our business was to sell information to institutional investors — the folks who manage our pension funds and mutual funds and 401Ks — who had previously been robbed blind by the banks, who held all the information. 

Mike Bloomberg reversed the power structure on Wall Street, empowering investors and pitching the big banks on their asses. They’ve never recovered.

Ironically the company probably makes most of its money off those very banks whose businesses we threatened. That’s because they couldn’t afford not to be able to look at the same data and analyses as their customers. 

Now the investment industry is very fragmented whereas the big Wall Street banks are highly and powerfully concentrated. 

That means those banks should get a big volume discount, right? 

A trader at a big bank with 10,0000+ employees should pay way less than an investment firm with 10-12 employees, right? 

Well, not with Mike. He never charged less to the big banks. They paid the same fee per employee as their customers, and it drove them insane.

But they paid it because they had to have it. 

And that’s the story of how Mike’s business became so insanely profitable charging banks retail while all the time empowering their customers to make better investment decisions.

And then he got elected mayor and left us. 

Most managers would boast that their companies can’t run without them, but surely Mike’s proudest achievement was that his could. 

He walked away and spent 12 years at city hall and the company didn’t miss a beat. That’s because he promotes people, empowers them, and backs them. 

Our culture rewarded managers who made themselves obsolete by training and promoting their future replacements. Mike used to talk about that all the time.

So anyway, that’s a little background about Mike’s business career for those of you outside the business world who might not otherwise know. 

There are lots of business success stories but Mike’s is unlike any other you’re likely to encounter.

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