Mike Bloomberg set to sell company if elected president

By AP Reporters

Democratic election hopeful Mike Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created in the 1980s — which bears his name and made him a multi-billionaire — if elected US president, a top adviser has said.

Mr Bloomberg would put Bloomberg LP into a blind trust, and the trustee would then sell the company, adviser Tim O’Brien said on Tuesday.

Proceeds from the sale would go to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable giving arm that funds causes from climate change to public health and grants for American cities.

The only restriction Mr Bloomberg would put on the sale is that it not be sold to a foreign buyer or a private equity company, Mr O’Brien said.

Mr Bloomberg is currently chief executive of the company.

“We want to be 180 degrees apart from Donald Trump around financial conflicts of interest,” Mr O’Brien told The Associated Press.

“We think it’s one of the biggest stains on the presidency, and Trump’s record is his refusal to disengage himself in his own financial interests. And we want to be very transparent and clean and clear with voters about where Mike is on these things.”

Indeed, as one of the world’s wealthiest people, Mr Bloomberg would have an extraordinarily complicated financial picture to untangle if he won the presidency.

His commitment to selling the company stands in stark contrast to the Republican Mr Trump, who refused to fully divest from his business, instead putting his assets in a trust controlled by his two adult sons and a senior company executive. He has continued to make money from his properties.

Mr Bloomberg said in 2018, when he was considering a presidential run, that he would consider selling his business if elected.

He retained ownership in the company when he served as New York City mayor from 2002 to 2013, but gave up his title of chief executive.

Mr O’Brien’s comment comes amid increasing scrutiny of Mr Bloomberg’s wealth and business holdings from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He will face them on the debate stage for the first time on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Mr Bloomberg created his company in 1981 after being fired from the investment bank Salomon Brothers with a $10 million severance payment.

His new venture created the Bloomberg Terminal, a dedicated computer with proprietary software that allowed Wall Street traders, buyers and sellers to see financial transaction data in real time.

The terminal quickly became a must-have product around the financial world and has been used by entities including the World Bank and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Mr Bloomberg then grew the business to include a financial news arm, which has morphed into a major news wire service.

The outlet has faced criticism for allowing its reporters to cover the campaign but blocking them from reporting in-depth investigations into Mr Bloomberg or his Democratic rivals.

Newsroom leaders did not impose similar restrictions on reporting regarding Mr Trump.

Mr Bloomberg has also faced renewed scrutiny over lawsuits filed by women at his company alleging discrimination or hostile treatment. He has said he will not release women from any nondisclosure agreements they’ve signed with the company.

Bloomberg entered the presidential race in November and has been steadily climbing in national polls, buoyed by $400 million in advertising.

Worth an estimated $60 billion (£46 billion), he is entirely self-funding his campaign.

By spending more than $400 million (£307 million) of his own money and largely bypassing his opponents by skipping the early primary states, Mr Bloomberg has rocketed to double-digit support in enough national polls to qualify for both Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Nevada, and next week’s debate in South Carolina.

But as his support has risen, so has criticism from his Democratic foes as well as the broader scrutiny of his past comments and record as New York mayor.