Michael R. Bloomberg
With a net worth of some $11.5 billion, Michael Bloomberg is one of the world’s wealthiest people, according to Forbes magazine. But when he was growing up in Medford, Mass., in the 1950s, Bloomberg couldn’t even afford a trip to Boy Scout camp. The only way the Jewish Scout got there was by selling Christmas wreaths to his neighbors and winning annual trips to camp by being his troop’s top salesman.
That drive to succeed followed Bloomberg to Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Business School, and then Salomon Brothers in New York City. He worked at Salomon Brothers for 15 years, eventually managing the firm’s information systems, then lost his job when Salomon Brothers was acquired in 1981.
Down but definitely not out, Bloomberg parlayed his experience—and the considerably wealth he’d acquired—into a new venture called Bloomberg LP, which sought to use new technology to simplify the process of trading in financial securities. The company has since grown into a global media empire focused on financial and business news. Today, Bloomberg LP has more than 10,000 employees around the world and posts annual revenues of some $4.7 billion, and the Bloomberg name is as integral to the world of commerce as Forbes and Dow Jones.
Twenty years after founding the firm that bears his name, Bloomberg launched yet another career, running successfully for mayor of New York City in the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A lifelong Democrat, Bloomberg ran on the Republican ticket, but he has since become a registered independent, choosing to focus on partnership over partisanship. “We have achieved real progress by overcoming the partisanship that too often puts narrow interests above the common good,” he said in a press statement at the time. “As a political independent, I will continue to work with those in all political parties to find common ground, to put partisanship aside and to achieve real solutions to the challenges we face.”
In his two terms as mayor, Bloomberg has found solutions to many problems New York faced. He has cut crime by 20 percent, increased graduation rates by the same amount, pushed through a comprehensive smoking ban, and expanded support for parks and arts organizations. He has also spearheaded efforts to fight global warming, reduce poverty, and keep illegal guns off city streets.
Bloomberg has established an impressive record as a philanthropist. He has donated more than $300 million to Johns Hopkins University, where he served as chairman of the board from 1996 to 2002, and supported organizations as diverse as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Dance Theater of Harlem, Gilda’s Club, and his home synagogue in Medford. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Bloomberg donated $205 million to charity in 2007 alone, making him the country’s seventh largest individual donor that year.
Some of Bloomberg’s gifts are memorials to his father, who died in 1963. When Harvard’s William Henry Bloomberg Professorship was created in 1996, Bloomberg described his father as someone who “recognized the importance of reaching out to the nonprofit sector to help better the welfare of the entire community.”
Like father, like son. Like an Eagle Scout.