Bloomberg: I could shut down Bloomberg News' political coverage if I run for president

Why wait? That might be what Michael Bloomberg’s political reporters are thinking after the boss casually mentioned that they might all be out of a job if he runs for president in 2020. The former mayor of New York City told an Iowa radio host that he’d either sell his news business to prevent a conflict of interest … or just put an end to its coverage of politics.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Reporters at Bloomberg News are on edge after their boss announced that if he chooses to run for president in 2020 — a decision he will have to finalize relatively soon — it could mean the end of the news outlet’s political coverage. …

The interview quickly caused paranoia within Bloomberg’s news division, according to sources familiar with the matter. The politics team, in particular, has been rankled by what Bloomberg said about how in-house political reporters should handle his potential campaign (not at all).

“Quite honestly, I don’t want all the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me,” Bloomberg said through laughter during the interview. One serious option for handling his campaign, he said, would be to “not cover politics at all,” ceding all political coverage to other outlets’ wire stories.

That’s a bit extreme, but it’s not the first time that Bloomberg has made it clear that he doesn’t want his employees covering him, campaigning or not. Former Bloomberg political news director Kathy Kiely resigned nearly three years ago when Bloomberg floated an independent bid just before the primaries started. She told HuffPost that “the bottom line is, you can’t cover the circus unless you can write about one of the biggest elephants in the room.” At that time, other Bloomberg News figures disputed that characterization, but this little episode seems to vindicate Kiely’s decision.

The current staff might be rooting for a sale instead of a shutdown or even a “blind trust” arrangement. The latter would certainly remove any financial conflict of interest, but reporters would still have to put their names on any articles that might be considered critical of the boss. If Bloomberg didn’t succeed, he’d be back running the organization — and that might get a little awkward.

Bloomberg was serious about the sell option, CNBC notes, but there’s a problem with that too. Who’s got $40 billion in loose change?

Bloomberg takes in about $10 billion in annual revenue, according to a source familiar with the matter. The company would probably fetch more than $40 billion in a sale, according to two investment bankers familiar with the company’s finances. …

There aren’t many companies large enough to absorb Bloomberg that make sense as buyers. The most likely option for a sale, said the bankers, is a consortium leveraged buyout deal. Private-equity firm Blackstone acquired a majority stake in Thomson Reuters’s financial information business, which competes with Bloomberg, in a deal that valued the unit at $20 billion earlier this year.

Still, club private-equity deals aren’t nearly as common as they were a decade ago. Many of those transactions led to huge losses after the financial crisis. A leveraged buyout of Bloomberg would likely be the largest in history, topping the $32 billion acquisition of TXU led by KKR & Co. and TPG in 2007.

All of this is academic anyway, because it’s not terribly likely that Bloomberg will run at all. He’s slightly older than Joe Biden and will have been out of public office for seven years in 2020. He’s another multi-billionaire like Trump, but Trump’s an outsider, or at least he’s built up some credibility as such. Bloomberg is the ultimate insider in the NYC-DC bubble. His Wall Street track record is far outside of the mainstream among ever-harder-Left Democrats, making him the quintessential one percenter in an Occupy Wall Street party. Any attempt to run as an independent will create the same problem Bloomberg faced in 2016 — he’d get most of his votes from those already inclined to vote against Trump. Bloomberg would split Trump’s opposition and hand Trump an even bigger victory the second time out.

The most likely outcome is that Bloomberg will content himself with running his businesses while dropping tons of cash into the election. That creates fewer headaches … outside of Bloomberg News’ offices, anyway.

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