IN late 2007, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg rolled his chair over to Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff’s desk inside the bullpen at City Hall and suggested that they go to a nearby table to talk. The mayor knew that Mr. Doctoroff was six weeks away from leaving city government to return to Wall Street. But he had another idea.
“What would you think about running my company?” Mr. Bloomberg asked.
A few hours later, Mr. Doctoroff accepted the job. But now Mr. Bloomberg wants his company back. In an amicable parting announced on Wednesday evening, Mr. Doctoroff will step down at the end of the year and Mr. Bloomberg will reassume control of the firm he founded — with his $10 million severance check from Salomon Brothers — in 1981.
He will be retaking control of the financial data and media giant Bloomberg L.P. at a critical moment in its evolution. In a matter of weeks, it will roll out a new political website and TV show run by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, veteran journalists who co-wrote a pair of gossipy books about the last two presidential elections.
Daniel L. Doctoroff, a former deputy Mr. Bloomberg had chosen in 2007 to run the company. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times The project, Bloomberg Politics, is part of a broader strategy to raise the company’s digital profile; it will eventually include a number of other sites built around a variety of topics like technology and luxury. While enormously profitable, Bloomberg has been late to the Internet and has never really managed to transcend its core audience of financial services professionals, who use its subscription-only terminals for data and analysis.
These new initiatives are being led by Justin Smith, a digital-media executive who joined the company last summer, and Josh Tyrangiel, the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, who also oversees all editorial content at Bloomberg Media. At 45 and 41, they stand in sharp contrast to Bloomberg’s old guard, most notably two of its co-founders, the editor in chief of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler, and the longtime head of its terminal business, Thomas Secunda.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Tyrangiel were hired by Mr. Doctoroff — in Mr. Smith’s case, specifically to lead Bloomberg into the digital era — but they both spoke to Mr. Bloomberg before joining the company. In a meeting with his managers on Thursday, after the news of his impending return broke, Mr. Bloomberg reaffirmed his support for his leadership team and the company’s strategy. Of course, he could change his mind, much as he did when he decided to go back to the company after long maintaining that he had no intention of doing so.
The news of Mr. Bloomberg’s return answers a question that New Yorkers have been asking since before he ended his final term as mayor: What will he do when he leaves office? This may not be his last act — remember that this is a man who flirted seriously with running for president — but it’s at least his next one.
Now the question is what will Mr. Bloomberg do with the company. Some people inside Bloomberg are hoping that he will impose a clear unifying vision on an organization that has grown exponentially in his absence, and perhaps even refine its identity.
He still owns 88 percent of the privately held Bloomberg L.P.; according to Forbes, he’s the world’s 16th-richest person, with a personal net worth of $33 billion. With more than $9 billion in revenue and a sturdy balance sheet, the company has the financial wherewithal to aggressively expand, if it chooses to.
The media industry is in the midst of a major reshuffling, as once-entrenched companies grope toward relevance and profitability in an era of free news and entertainment. Bloomberg L.P. is often named as a company that could buy such outlets as CNN, The New York Times and The Financial Times.
But Mr. Bloomberg, 72, is not a swashbuckling media mogul in the spirit of Rupert Murdoch. He is disciplined, calculating and, for the most part, restrained. (As mayor, he urged New Yorkers to embrace those qualities, with his big-soda and trans-fat bans.)
Michael R. Bloomberg on a boat in Istanbul. As he reasserts full control over Bloomberg L.P., the question is now what he plans to do. Credit Ivor Prickett for The New York Times If Mr. Bloomberg is not a traditional media tycoon, Bloomberg L.P. is not a traditional media company. About 80 percent of its revenue comes from its terminals, making it more of a financial services and data provider. The media operation is effectively an expensive hood ornament.
Inside the company, the party line is that Mr. Bloomberg does not care about influence for the sake of influence. The goal of increasing the company’s visibility is not about satisfying the former mayor’s ego, Mr. Doctoroff and others say, but rather increasing the demand for terminals. The logic is that the more visible Bloomberg becomes, the more likely newsmakers will be to give its reporters news that moves markets. That news goes out to terminal subscribers first, thus giving them an advantage over other brokers and traders — and presumably making the terminals more valuable.
“If we only wrote for our terminal audience, then a lot of people who make news aren’t going to come to us first with their news,” Mr. Doctoroff said in an interview on Thursday.
Whether Bloomberg’s new products — which will exist on a variety of media platforms — can become popular destinations is another matter. In the broader media world, the Bloomberg brand has historically had limited resonance, and it has become more difficult than ever to stand out in the marketplace.
The first test will be the political site and TV show, which starts on Oct. 6. According to people inside the company, the show, “With All Due Respect,” is modeled after ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” a sort of brasher, faster-paced version of Siskel and Ebert. More generally, Mr. Smith has spoken internally about Bloomberg becoming “the ESPN of business news.”
Some insiders have expressed frustration that Bloomberg’s foray into the media mainstream has taken so long. Mr. Smith worked at the Atlantic Media Company and The Week and is now operating within a multibillion-dollar empire. “Justin has had a lot of experience on little destroyers,” said one Bloomberg executive who requested anonymity because he was unauthorized to publicly discuss the company. “Now he’s trying to turn an aircraft carrier around.”
Bloomberg has about 16,000 employees and a 2,500-person newsroom. Above all, it has more than three decades of institutional history and a lot of different fiefs. The executive described the company as “Balkanized.”
Mr. Doctoroff disagreed. “I think, compared to when I got here, that it is meaningfully less Balkanized,” he said.
It will soon be Mr. Bloomberg’s job to bring his sprawling company together and lead it into the future. It’s a job that should keep him busy for a while, anyway.
Authored by JONATHAN MAHLER via nytimes.com.