Helpless Mayor Bloomberg Can't Stop Himself From Getting Richer

Last month, in the New Yorker's attempt to summarize the legacy of grumpy moneybags mayor Michael Bloomberg, reporter Ken Auletta left one of the mayor's contradictions unresolved. Auletta wrote of Bloomberg's philanthropic efforts:

Bloomberg has pledged to give away most of his fortune before he dies. That effort is under way.

Yet the New Yorker piece listed Bloomberg's net worth as "estimated at twenty-seven billion dollars." Four years ago, in the magazine's previous profile of the mayor, Ben McGrath wrote:

Bloomberg entered City Hall with an estimated net worth of five billion dollars, and during his time there has more than tripled that amount.

Specifically, according to Forbes, he was worth $16 billion then. So in the course of his first two terms as mayor, Bloomberg gained $11 billion. As of this past spring, his third term had seen him gain another $11 billion.

It's a biographical oddity. For one thing, it means that Bloomberg L.P. has flourished wildly ever since its indispensable chief executive officially removed himself from the company's operations to become the indispensable chief executive of New York City. Getting rid of Michael Bloomberg as CEO would appear to be the most lucrative business decision Michael Bloomberg ever made.

And his would-be resignation from the plutocracy is backfiring just as richly. Yesterday, Forbes followed up its annual March "Billionaires" list with its annual September "Forbes 400" list. According to the new numbers, Bloomberg's estimated net worth now stands at $31 billion.

That is, in the past six months alone, the mayor made four-fifths as much money as he had made in his entire life and career as a businessman, before he went into public service.

The news of these latest Forbes numbers was carried in today's New York Times, as a kicker to a short and pointed piece about how Bloomberg had "snapped at several reporters" who tried to ask him questions about the end of his mayorality and his legacy as mayor (key words and phrases: "sniffed," "interrupted," "brusquely," "looked at her as though she were a lobotomy patient"). The Times writer, Kate Taylor, took the Forbes news to mean "not all is going badly for the mayor."

Relative to his stated aim of shedding his wealth, though, the numbers are disastrous. Michael Bloomberg is literally making money faster than he can give it away. No wonder the mayor is in a bad mood. On the other hand, it does clarify his legacy: Mayor Bloomberg's New York has been a wonderfully profitable place in which to be Mayor Bloomberg.

[Image by Jim Cooke]