Michael Bloomberg's got a lot going on. He's the mayor of New York City, one of the most powerful cities on the planet. He owns 90 percent of the wickedly profitable media company that bears his name. He's number 10 on the Forbes 500 list. Can't he just quit while he's ahead?
Not a chance, suggests The New York Times. In a scoop that feels like it's stretching at times, The Times's Amy Chozick and Michael Barbaro make the case that Bloomberg is angling himself to make a bid for the Financial Times, the widely respected, pink-paged newspaper that says it's not for sale. But for a guy worth $25 billion, things that aren't for sale are the most fun to shop for. Bloomberg paid a visit to the FT's London headquarters and chatted up some editors, the media mogul equivalent of kicking the tires. One FT editor asked Bloomberg if he was going to buy the paper, Bloomberg replied, "I buy it every day." Privately, Bloomberg told one of his associates recently, "It's the only paper I'd buy." We're guessing he's not talking about making decisions at the newsstand.
Does Michael Bloomberg really need to own more of the media, though? One could easily argue that Bloomberg's stranglehold on financial news makes him more powerful than Rupert Murdoch. After all, Murdoch doesn't have a branded machine on the desk of every Wall Street trader -- or 315,000 of them, anyways -- that spits out proprietary information in exchange for $20,000 a year in subscription fees. If Bloomberg bought the Financial Times Group, he'd most likely also get a 50 percent share of The Economist, although he wouldn't be thrilled about the ownership agreement which keeps The Economist's coverage independent. "You don't have control," Bloomberg told the Times reporters at a party last week. "Why would you want that?" This is the quote that made us really wonder if Bloomberg needs to own more of the media. That and the fact that the Financial Times is not for sale.
We've been through this before. Everyone got really curious about the idea of Bloomberg buying a newspaper about six months ago, when The New York Times was going through a leadership transition and continuing to suffer through its decade-long digital transition. The Financial Times is going through a similar transition now, which is fueling the speculation that Bloomberg might go after the Pink Paper instead of the Grey Lady. Meanwhile, he also seems to want to appoint a success as New York mayor -- although his favorite candidates aren't taking the bait.
Bloomberg needs something to keep him busy when his term is up next year, though. Maybe he could take up fly fishing, like normal 70-year-old men and give someone else a chance at running the media. Or why doesn't he just retire to the elephant exercise grounds he bought a while back? There's nothing like a little bit of circus training to alleviate those monopolistic urges.