Bloomberg to Sell Business if Elected
The mega-billionaire commits to a path quite different from the fake billionaire currently in office.
Mike Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created in the 1980s — which bears his name and made him a multibillionaire — if he is elected U.S. president, a top adviser said Tuesday.
Bloomberg would put Bloomberg LP into a blind trust, and the trustee would then sell the company, adviser Tim O’Brien said. 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 Bloomberg would put on the sale is that it not be sold to a foreign buyer or a private equity company, O’Brien said. Bloomberg, a Democrat, is currently chief executive of the company.
“We want to be 180 degrees apart from Donald Trump around financial conflicts of interest,” 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, Bloomberg would have an extraordinarily complicated financial picture to untangle if he wins the presidency. His commitment to selling the company stands in stark contrast to the Republican 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.
Bloomberg said in 2018, when he was considering a presidential run, that he would consider selling his business if elected. The company is not currently for sale. 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.
Had he been running four years ago, this would have been a non-story. Of course he would divest himself of his business and media empire. What else could he do? Hell, Jimmy Carter was forced to sell off the family peanut business to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest.
But Trump thumbed his nose at both norms and the law with zero consequence. It would be perfectly conceivable for a President Bloomberg to not only have a multi-billion dollar business but his own news agency. What fun that would be!
But Bloomberg is so much richer than any previous President that actually doing what he’s committed to doing would be extraordinarily complicated.
If he won the White House, the exact timeline for a sale isn’t clear, O’Brien said. There’s also been no decision on what would happen to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said such an action would need to follow complex rules and be approved by the ethics office. The administer of the blind trust would need to be an institution, not a person, and it’s not clear how a trustee would navigate confidentiality requirements when trying to sell off a private company, Shaub said. There are no comparable examples of any executive branch official putting a large private company into a blind trust and up for sale, he said.
He said it would be smart for every candidate to set up meetings with the office now to begin discussing potential conflicts of interest.
“Bottom line: It could be a costly mistake for any candidates to make firm commitments to establish qualified blind trusts without first having their attorneys meet with OGE’s Director and legal staff,” Shaub tweeted.
What Bloomberg is committing to here is in one sense rather extraordinary: he’s promising to not only sell off the business but to donate the proceeds to charity. Granted, his charity.
While different from the Clinton Foundation in that it’s self-funded rather than soliciting contributions, removing one set of conflicts of interest, having tens of billions of dollars to donate would be an untenable position for a sitting President. It would buy an awful lot of silence.
That we’re having this conversation about a man who isn’t even on the ballot in the early primary states—and won’t take the debate stage for the first time until tonight—seems absurd. That’s doubly so given that he’s a plutocrat with some decidedly un-woke views in a party that’s seemingly on a progressive wave. But, for the moment at least, he’s looking like the most plausible alternative to a Bernie Sanders nomination.