Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bloomberg vs. Thomson (54% to 29%?): It’s Not What You Think. (For Instance the “P” is Missing and What Might “P” Stand For?)

With everyone focused on Tuesday as election day and the race for New York City mayor we think there is another race that deserves some focus: Bloomberg vs. Thomson. That’s right, Bloomberg vs. Thomson without a “p” in “Thomson.” No, we are not talking about the mayoral race where mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg is running against city Comptroller Bill Thompson (though we are talking about the same “Bloomberg”); we are talking about the race in selling financial terminals in the New York market. We are talking about the financial terminals that Mayor Bloomberg’s company sells and the major competition for Bloomberg’s company when selling those terminals: Thomson Reuters. Why is this an important thing to focus on? Almost all of Bloomberg’s billions come from terminal sales.

Never Before in New York City History

We have written before, (quite recently) about how Michael Bloomberg became the richest New Yorker while in office. We pointed out that never before in history has the city’s wealthiest individual also been the mayor. (See: Thursday, October 22, 2009, This Is Rich! Looks Like Bloomberg is Making History.) We pointed out that in 1997, when Bloomberg’s political aspiration to be mayor was first publicly disclosed, his wealth was calculated at a mere $1.3 billion, a fraction (7.4%) of his current $17.5 figure while in that same year the wealth of others routinely high up on the list of the city’s wealthiest like Ron Pearlman’s and Rupert Murdoch had a net wealth 65% of what they have now. For more detailed analysis, see our previous post.
Never Before in United States History

We also wrote about how never before in history to our knowledge have we had the kind of conflicts of interest that exist between Bloomberg’s role as mayor and his business. Here’s an addition to the “never before in history” list. The day after our own “never before in history” post, the New York Times ran a story with the following opening paragraph (emphasis supplied):
Michael R. Bloomberg, the Wall Street mogul whose fortune catapulted him into New York’s City Hall, has set another staggering financial record: He has now spent more of his own money than any other individual in United States history in the pursuit of public office.
(See: Bloomberg Sets Record for His Own Spending on Elections, by Michael Barbaro and David W. Chen, October 23, 2009.)

That Times article, providing an update to figures previously available, noted that as of the last available count Bloomberg, having so far “spent $85 million on his latest re-election campaign” (that’s just his direct campaign expenditures), was “on pace to spend between $110 million and $140 million before the election on Nov. 3”and that “Bloomberg, in his three bids for mayor, will have easily burned through more than $250 million” (in direct campaign expenditures.)

A Full Count: A Billion?

Giving a flurry of specific supporting figures, the Times article reported that Bloomberg had spent more than New Jersey’s Jon S. Corzine, Steve Forbes and Ross Perot in all their respective multiple races. There are some problems with the assessment provided by the Times. One problem, as we keep emphasizing with parentheticals inserted above is that the $250 million figure for Bloomberg’s spending is just for his direct campaign spending. We have offered calculations before pointing out that, including ALL of Bloomberg’s political spending, political contributions to buy endorsements, the money he furnishes to charities with political strings and other city funds he controls, his spending just on this last campaign alone may be verging on close to $1 billion. That calculation was before Times upped the estimate of Bloomberg’s possible direct spending by another $35 million and without factoring in the very recent discovery that Bloomberg’s accountant contributed the maximum allowed $26,000 to Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker’s campaign. (Should we call this the Bookkeeper’s Booker scandal?- See: Newark Mayor Backed Bloomberg, Then Got Funds, by David W. Chen, October 27, 2009.)

Booker not only delivered an endorsement of Bloomberg that was timed coincidentally with the Bookkeeper’s donations; he has since been a routine prop on Bloomberg’s campaign circuit.

A Belated Perspective?

Another problem with the Times assessment that Bloomberg has now achieved United States history by setting “another staggering financial record” is that the Times is making this call this late in the game. The Times is thereby failing to provide a true perspective of how incredible the level of Bloomberg’s political spending is. Using just the direct $250 million expenditure the Times uses in making its determination, the Times concludes that Bloomberg spent more than the $130 million his next runner-up, Jon Corzine, spent of his three races (two for governor and one for senate) and more than the $114 million, the next runner-up, Steve Forbes spent on his two races for president. Notice, not only did Bloomberg surpass the two runners-up, his spending figure exceeds the total of both their expenditure sums combined. It should therefore be obvious that Bloomberg didn’t set the United States historical record just recently. He must have set it a long time ago. What he has done recently is to compound the “achievement” by almost double. Does that put everything in perspective?

Comparison to Corzine? A Hundred to One Shot

Another thing. Since Bloomberg has sometimes previously been compared to Corzine we thought it best to point out how far that comparison does not go. Accordingly, this is what we wrote last spring:
Yes, Corzine spent heavily on his own campaign, but Corzine’s wealth is measured in mere millions. Corzine’s total net worth is less than half of what Bloomberg “gives” away every year to “charity.” Bloomberg’s charitable giving is used to manipulate politics and public opinion, so Corzine’s total net worth is way below what Bloomberg spends on such manipulations each year.

* * * *

To compare Bloomberg’s billions to Corzine’s paltry millions is simply to illustrate that you have seriously lost track of how outsized and beyond most people’s comprehension of Bloomberg’s wealth actually is.
(See: Sunday, April 12, 2009, Bloomberg Update: Fire and Ice (Part I).)

In that same article we noted that Corzine doesn’t have the same kind of conflicts of interest that routinely present themselves in Mr, Bloomberg’s case.

On the subject of noncomparisons between Bloomberg and Corzine the New York Times ran an article yesterday doing precisely this. At the very top of the chart that accompanies the article are the net worth figures: Bloomberg $16 billion (or $16,000 millions) and Corzine only $150 million (less than one one/hundredth of Bloomberg’s wealth). (Though Forbes latest figure for Bloomberg’s wealth is $17.5 billion the Times sometimes variously reports his current wealth as $16 billion. Bloomberg’s wealth temporarily took a 20% dip (down from $20 million) recently apparently because Bloomberg, not foreseeing the financial crisis, did not protect his investments. (See: Bloomberg and Corzine: 2 Leaders, Few Parallels, by David W. Chen, October 30, 2009.)

Missing from the Times article is any mention of the unique relationship between Bloomberg’s wealth and his impressive conflicts of interest. So the Times “comparison” article, merely by existing is misleading and incomplete.

Never Before in New York State History

Here is another example of how one has to be careful not to be misled by comparisons. Chris Smith writing in New York magazine also found himself reaching for historical comparisons to put Bloomberg’s wealth in perspective. Specifically assessing power (and referring to New York magazine assessments going back in time) he compares Bloomberg to Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1972 and writes (emphasis supplied):
Thirty-six years later, the parallels are uncanny—an exceedingly wealthy man in a top elective office, using his own money as well as the tools of his job to dominate a weakened civic hierarchy—even if the details are different and the valences are reversed: Rocky was a strong governor stepping in to clean up for a hollow mayor (the post-presidential-campaign John Lindsay); Bloomy is a strong mayor who wishes he could clean up for a hollow governor (indeed, David Paterson’s weakness only augments the mayor’s power). But perhaps the greatest difference is that Bloomberg’s power outstrips Rockefeller’s by a wide measure, wider even than the gap in their wealth: Bloomberg, New York’s richest man, is approximately twelve times richer than Rockefeller, in today’s dollars, and he’s spread his money around more craftily and more extensively than Rocky ever did.
(See: Mike Bloomberg Owns This Town: With shrewdness and luck, an imperious idea of democracy, and plenty of money, the mayor has made himself the only political player in New York who really matters. By Chris Smith, Oct 18, 2009.)

Conflict Avoidance?

We like Chris Smith and have commented favorably on the quality of his articles before. (See: Thursday, December 25, 2008, Our Reasons to Love New York Magazine and Elected Politicians.) Nevertheless, one thing that Chris Smith neglects to mention with respect to this comparison in the entire article (which otherwise has a lot to recommend it) are the myriad conflicts of interest between Bloomberg’s business and Bloomberg’s role as mayor. Rockefeller, whose wealth is rendered diminutive by the Bloomberg comparison Smith furnishes above didn’t have comparably large scale conflicts. History fails again! Chris Smith only mentions the conflicts involved in Bloomberg’s funding of charities. His reference to Bloomberg’s spreading “his money around more craftily and more extensively than Rocky ever did” evokes the political strings Bloomberg attaches to his charities in a way that Rockefeller didn’t.

A Historical Interest in Politics

One other quibble we have with Mr. Smith’s article is this. Mr. Smith references 1999 as the year that “Bloomberg began to think about a career change” into politics. We think we have very clearly identified Bloomberg’s entrance into the pursuit of his political career as occurring between 1994 and 1997 or slightly earlier. 1994 was the year that Bloomberg hired Patti Harris, a former City Hall official under Koch and the woman Bloomberg put in charge of handling two functions simultaneously: running his political operations and controlling funds the fund he distributes to charities. She still has essentially those same two functions today as Bloomberg’s First Deputy Mayor. 1997 was the year that Bloomberg brought out his book, “Bloomberg by Bloomberg,” that as we pointed out was doubtless intended to launch him into politics. For more on this see: Friday, October 2, 2009, No Real Debate About It: Press Remains Way Off Track in Presupposing Bloomberg’s “Charity.”

The Missing Coverage on Mayor’s Conflicts Provided by Barrett

We have certainly written at length about the conflicts of interest between the Mayor’s business and his role as mayor but if you would like to see another recent a recent article that throughly covers the voluminous conflicts of interest issues not mentioned or delved into in the Chris Smith New York Magazine cover story, see Bloomberg Keeps His Billions Separate From His Mayoral Obligations? Yeah, Right! By Wayne Barrett, Tuesday, September 1st 2009 in The Village Voice.

Barrett sometimes scares us in how neutral he can sound in some of his assessments of Bloomberg. His more recent article (A Bloomberg Score Card: The Mayor's Hits and Misses, October 13th 2009) though chock-full of criticism of Bloomberg is an example of such neutrality. It may be that focusing less on Bloomberg’s destructive developments (like Atlantic Yards- Its arena is mentioned by Barrett as a “stadium-centric” Bloomberg “miss”) there are on balance a few more areas where he is willing to give Bloomberg the benefit of the doubt. However, in his September “Bloomberg Keeps His Billions Separate From His Mayoral Obligations? Yeah, Right!” article Barrett scares us in a different way, by litanizing Bloomberg’s seemingly endless conflicts of interest. It makes for a long, detailed article dedicated to that single subject.

Bloomberg TV’s Little Blessing

Some of the article, under other circumstances would be almost comic. Mr. Barretts notes and asks why Bloomberg’s “little business-news network called Bloomberg TV” somehow bounced the sports network that carries the Yankees out of Time Warner Cable’s prime Channel 30 slot. That means that the sports stations are no longer all grouped by genre. Formerly they were 26-27-28-29-30. Barrett contrasts other cities’ treatment of the little Bloomberg station:
Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, Bloomberg TV remains in the cable hinterlands: It's still at 224 in Los Angeles, 252 in San Diego, 246 in Boston, and, like it once was in New York, 104 in New Jersey. (Cablevision, which has the city contract in the Bronx and parts of Brooklyn, has Bloomberg TV at 105.)

Barrett describes as we have, but offering fresh detail, the crisscrossing of Bloomberg L.P. executive positions with top City Hall positions. Not only do the executives go back and forth and mix functions but a number of them get dual salaries simultaneously from both the government and from Bloomberg, L.P. As Barrett expresses it:
in an unusual arrangement approved by city ethics officials, working for him on personal and corporate matters for up to 30 hours a week.
When it was reported (see our earlier post) that Bloomberg gave $1 million to Deputy Mayor Patti Harris’s alma mater to have a building named after her “several historians and experts on good government” said the gift raised the question of whether “Ms. Harris’s loyalties would be to Mr. Bloomberg rather than to taxpayers.” We think these salary arrangements raise the same question of allegiance.

Bloomberg also uses Bloomberg. L.P. to hire people with inside political information such as “Judi DeMarco, a close confidante of Republican State Senator Joe Bruno and other GOP senators” who also worked for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Another was the “son of the current Senate GOP leader, Dean Skelos.”

Conflicts Not Prevented

We have complained about the increasing fecklessness of the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board in dealing with the Bloomberg conflicts of interest and Mr. Barrett makes parallel observations. One point he makes very well is how little it is possible to know about the details of the conflicts of interest or the extent of their potentially huge financial import. Bloomberg negotiated an arrangement that prevents the COIB from being advised about any possible conflicts unless Bloomberg is doing more than 10% of his terminal business with a company. Bloomberg’s terminal sales are currently $6 billion so that means that Bloomberg can have undisclosed conflicts with any particular company to the tune of $600 million. Bloomberg gets to self-police compliance with this 10% limit himself. The last time any information was furnished to the COIB on the subject (in 2002) “Bloomberg told the COIB that the largest customer on the list accounted for less than 4 percent of total revenue, but no one knows how much that might have changed since then.” If there is currently a client Bloomberg company accounting for about 4% of sales (and it could be a lot more) that would be $240 million in sales.

As for policing compliance himself, we have previously pointed out that it is already known that Bloomberg has not complied with proscription of the COIB when he didn’t want to.

Pot of Goldman

Great minds think alike: We recently focused on Goldman Sachs and the possible link between terminal sales and discretionary benefits the firm was granted with respect to its new building; so did Mr. Barrett. We wrote:
Take one big company as an example, Goldman Sachs. Goldman has a new building in Battery Park City which was allowed to override the Battery Park City master plan, was granted extra density and tax breaks. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board said that he should not do so, Mr. Bloomberg calls up his business to check on terminal sales numbers. All that it takes for a big company to send money Bloomberg’s way in what could be the equivalent of a kickback or a political contribution is to order more terminals. Political contributions are not tax deductible, but paying for more terminals than you really need is.
Mr. Barrett’s long article gives well-documented examples of companies besides Goldman (especially intriguing is the tangle of companies involved with the sale of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village) but about Goldman he writes:
Goldman Sachs had so many issues before the administration that it took seven pages to list its lobbying activities in the city clerk system (it spent almost a million dollars). When the city and state approved $1.6 billion in low-cost, tax-exempt bonds for Goldman's new downtown headquarters in 2005, Doctoroff justified it by saying that Wall Street's top firm might otherwise leave the city. Last year, the Daily News editorialized that Bloomberg was "taken to the cleaners" in the Goldman deal. The city and state "are in line to forfeit a whopping $321 million to Goldman because the governor and mayor agreed to contract terms that were downright foolhardy." Because of the meager demands of the COIB opinion, no one knows how big a Bloomberg customer Goldman was when it won this largesse.
Pretty much all of the terminal sales in question benefit Bloomberg, who reportedly owns a 92% share of his company.

The Terminal Race: Bloomberg vs. Thomson

So that’s why we are wondering about the Bloomberg terminal sales and that is what makes Bloomberg’s competition with their main competitor, Thomson Reuters, so very interesting indeed. When a business generates money hand over fist the way the Bloomberg business does, it usually attracts competitors, especially in the leapfrogging hard-to-stay-on-top tech world. Is Bloomberg getting its fair share of competition? Is that competition fair and square in New York where it especially counts?

Bloomberg Wins New York, Thomson the World?

Worldwide Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters both have about 34% of the market with each company having about 300,000 terminals. Just to get an idea of its sales, Bloomberg terminals sell for $20,000 a year. We have commented before how each additional terminal customers buy from Bloomberg is essentially free money to Bloomberg because of the lack of additional overhead.

Though the market share is about equal worldwide, in New York Bloomberg is dominant. Does that then mean that Thomson makes up the difference by besting Bloomberg abroad? Apparently. We are working on coming up with more exact and current figures but apparently, based on 2007 figures, Bloomberg sells about 40% of its terminals in North America. But if foreigners like Thompson terminals best, why don’t New Yorkers? Are Bloomberg terminals better in new York than elsewhere? Or is like the way the Bloomberg News channel has one of the best slots on New York’s Time Warner Cable but not elsewhere in the country?

Clunky Bloomberg Machines?

One local Business Week reporter, Stephen Baker, author of The Numerati, has been wondering whether Bloomberg is up to snuff enough as a company to continue dominating the terminal market. Admittedly, Mr. Baker may have an ax to grind since the Bloomberg, L.P.’s terminal sales just financed Bloomberg’s acquisition of Baker’s Business Week employer so he may not have a position much longer. Alternatively, the Bloomberg acquisition may have given Baker a chance at a “safe home” at a publication Baker says was losing “$1 million a week.” This is some of what Baker has to say (emphasis supplied):
Bloomberg ranks as the closest thing in journalism these days to a safe home.

Still, I'm trying to think ahead 10 years and wondering about the future of Bloomberg's model. They have a proprietary technology platform in a world moving toward open standards. Their box has an interface that requires training courses--this in a global market where simple, intuitive systems rise to the top. These limitations haven't mattered to date, because Bloomberg holds a trump card: speedy and reliable data. Traders have plenty of incentive to pay for the boxes and figure out how to use them, because real-time data is a must. If their competitors get the news first, they lose. . . .

How much can this market grow? To listen to Bloomberg execs, they make money from the boxes and invest that money in more news-gathering power, which makes the boxes even more attractive. It's a virtuous cycle which presumably leads to continuous growth. With BusinessWeek, Bloomberg hopes to extend its brand into the wider business audience, including c-suite executives, and open up further markets for their boxes.

I don't see it. In my experience, every continuous growth projection encounters some force that disrupts it.
(See: BusinessWeek Reporter On Bloomberg's Terminal Business: It's Toast, Jay Yarow, Oct. 15, 2009 and The BW acquisition: Can Bloomberg extend beyond its core? posted on October 15, 2009.)

If Bloomberg terminals have a clumsy, hard-to-learn, nonintuitive interface that is going to take the sales down in the future, does it really make sense that sales in New York shouldn’t already be going down? The future may hold changes. Thomson Reuter is actually the result of the merger of two companies, Thomson Financial and Reuters that merged in 2008. The recent combination of the services the two separate firms provided should mean a more formidable competitor for Bloomberg is emerging. (Others might argue that in the long run Bloomberg and Thomson are both “legacy providers” and the real competition will come from new technology companies like Google.)

Comparative Models

There may be changes in the future but what accounts for Bloomberg’s dominance of the New York Market now?

The Thomson Reuters model is a more flexible one that is customizable. Bloomberg presents a take-it-or-leave it all-in-one proposition. You always buy the whole terminal, while with Thompson Reuters it is possible for companies to save money by subscribing specifically to what they truly need. Do terminals need to provide all services and all of them high-speed real time when most individuals in finance specialize? In essence, Bloomberg “bundles,” a variation of the same approach that got Microsoft in trouble in Europe. It is also one reason that Windows 7 is pared down. There may be regulatory and antitrust issues here. Thomson Reuters’ more flexible sale of services may actually keep it out of trouble. Bloomberg not only engages in the take-it-or-leave it bundling; it also prevents its terminals from being shared by multiple individuals by associating access to the them with a dedicated biometric fingerprint scanner. Not everything is an “apples to apples’ comparison. For instance, Thomson informs us that, as opposed to Bloomberg, “50% of our Markets revenue comes from non-desktop sales.”

Spending More on Bloomberg Terminals?

We would like to learn more about the merits of the respective terminals and we will try to keep you up to date about anything important that we learn. Right now it seems to us that New York companies that want to save money would follow the example of the rest of the world where Thomson is ahead and buy more Thomson than Bloomberg terminals. It would seem to us the boards of directors at companies that are not doing this ought to be inquiring with due diligence into the reason for extra expenditures on Bloomberg terminals.

Digression: Terminal-Financed Bloomberg Interweaving Into Anemic Journalism Industry

One important digression: It should be noted that at the same time that Bloomberg’s terminal wealth was financing the acquisition of Business Week, Bloomberg has been making other deals integrating the company into the otherwise anemic journalism business. That includes a deal with the Washington Post reported on at the same time as the Business Week acquisition. Also, not widely reported, Bloomberg just made a recent deal with the New York Times to buy the Times real-time news feed for use in Bloomberg terminals. (See: New York Times Now Being Delivered On Bloomberg Terminals, by Staci D. Kramer, Sep 20, 2009.) This is not the first business relationship Bloomberg has had with the Times. The Wayne Barrett article on Bloomberg’s conflicts of interest reported that Bloomberg previously had an arrangement with the Times flowing in the other direction, for Bloomberg to produce the news for is WQXR station. Bloomberg investment in national media such as the Times and Washington Post will become very interesting if Bloomberg tries again to run in a national race.

Wondering About the “P”: Bloomberg Educates Us On the Subject of “Pay to Play”

Now lets talking about what that “p” missing from “Thomson” might stand for. Maybe it stands for “pay to play.” During the two mayoral debate the mayor made an issue about “pay to play,” asserting that Bill Thompson would engage in such conduct and implying that this kind of thing is definitely NOT going on in Bloomberg’s own administration. As the Times reported when this came up in the earlier debate:
Mr. Bloomberg bluntly asserted that Mr. Thompson picked money managers because they supported his campaign. But there has been no evidence of a direct link.
(See: Dust-Up of the Debate Occasionally Obscures Some Facts, by David W. Chen, October 13, 2009.)

(Below: Recent Bloomberg campaign mailer accusing Thompson of "Pay-to-Play".)
Bloomberg still hasn’t dropped this tactic. Bloomberg is running televison ads during the closing days of the campaign that similarly feature the subject of “pay to play.” Is it true that Bill Thompson engaged in “play to pay”? Thompson has defended against the charge, saying that Bloomberg is accountable for pension funds investments since the mayor appoints the majority and of board members and the chairman of the pension boards that vote on the investments. The Times offers the judgment that the buck ought to stop with Thompson under the city charter. That question is worthy of further examination but we think the more important question is whether Bloomberg has been engaged in what is in all possibility a much more massive kind of “pay to play.”

Finding Out About the Mayor’s Wealth: Don’t Ask Bloomberg Questions If You Don’t Want Lies

The mayor has well-documented conflicts of interest. Unlike the pension funds, there are essentially zero protections against those conflicts. Is the mayor methodically taking kickbacks in the form of Bloomberg terminal sales that would not occur but for Bloomberg’s position as mayor? One way to try to investigate would be to ask the mayor who, as Mr. Barrett made clear, the Conflicts of Interest Board has left in charge of policing himself. Bloomberg is not, however, willing to honestly answer these questions about his wealth and how he uses it. The subject and the mayor’s demonstrable dissembling came up in two ways in the last mayoral debate with Thompson.

A Charitable Response?

The one moment in the last debate when we thought Bloomberg seemed clearly nervous was when he was asked about his political use of distributions to charities. This also came up in the prior debate. This is how the Times reported on Bloomberg’s response in the first debate (emphasis supplied):
On charities: When Mr. Bloomberg was asked whether he thought his contributions to the city’s charities had insulated him from criticism from nonprofits, the mayor’s response seemed difficult to swallow.

“I think most of the people that get the gifts or the beneficiaries probably don’t know where the money comes from,” he said, prompting chortles in the audience.

In fact, the role of city charities was a prominent issue during last year’s debate over term limits. The New York Times reported that Mr. Bloomberg and his top aides asked those groups to testify during public hearings in support of changing term limits and to pressure wavering members of the City Council. Indeed, one official at a social services group that had received tens of thousands of dollars from the mayor, and also had a city contract, got a call from a deputy mayor.

“It’s pretty hard to say no,” the official said at the time. “They can take away a lot of resources.”
(See: Dust-Up of the Debate Occasionally Obscures Some Facts, by David W. Chen, October 13, 2009.)

Mayor Not Acquainted With His Little Tin Box?

But what about the phenomenal growth of the mayor’s wealth which has so substantially outpaced that of other NYC billionaires? That would be the question most elucidating about whether there is quid pro quo occurring in his terminal sales business. Bloomberg was unwilling to give an answer in the realm of truth. Asked about the growth of his wealth the mayor said, “I don’t know what’s happened to my wealth.” Here is how the Times fact check column on the debate dealt with that:
WEALTH Asked about the growth of his fortune, estimated at $16 billion, Mr. Bloomberg replied that because his company is not publicly traded, and therefore is not valued every day by the stock market, “I don’t know what’s happened to my wealth.” That strains credulity. Mr. Bloomberg owns the vast majority of Bloomberg L.P. and is regularly briefed on its performance, which is a real-time barometer of his wealth. His investments in mutual funds and bonds are managed by outside advisers, but they give him updates on their value. And he employs a small army of accountants, who keep close tabs on his finances.
(See: Dissecting the Claims: Exaggeration Amid Truth, by Michael Barbaro, October 27, 2009.)

Mr. Barrett offers this perspective of the mayor’s involvement with his business and the wealth he says he supposedly doesn’t know about:
Joyce Purnick, the former Times reporter who has just written the first Bloomberg biography, concluded that "his identification with his company is so strong" that discussing it "animates him like no other" subject, adding that he cites "current facts and figures," though he theoretically left it eight years ago. In 2007, the Times reported that Bloomberg "talked regularly to senior executives at the firm," adding that the scope of the contacts was "at odds with the way the company and Mr. Bloomberg have frequently portrayed his role."
Most Important Race?

So while there is always plenty of opportunity to read these days about how Bloomberg is ahead of Bill Thompson in yet one more poll- One of the latest is Bloomberg 53% to Thompson 38% (Bloomberg Leads Thompson In Yet Another Poll By Jen Chung in News on October 31, 2009)- we think that perhaps the figures documenting the contest that we should really be considering are those concerning Bloomberg’s heavy dominance in New York City terminals sales versus those of Thomson Reuters. With the gross inequality in their campaign spending ratios financed by terminal sales (now perhaps even 17-to-1 with respect to direct campaign expenditure alone), wasn’t the New York City race for mayor really determined long ago by the billions Bloomberg socked away from this other market share race?

What’s Most Worth Knowing?

Therefore let us ask what is most important. Is it most important to know about Bloomberg’s record as mayor during his two terms in office? That’s something you won’t really get a true picture of given Bloomberg’s extraordinary campaign spending paid for by terminal sales. Or is it most important to know about something else about which much less information is available: How during those same two terms Bloomberg became the city’s wealthiest man through terminal sales? Maybe what is needed is to appreciate how these two things interrelate.

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