For a billionaire Michael Bloomberg seems a pretty decent bloke with a strong sense of what he should do with his wealth. He is a New York financier who saw a gap in the market in the 1980s and set up the company which provides financial data. He is now worth somewhere north of $50 billion and 19,000 people owe their livelihood to him, 4000 of those in his new building in London, which cost around a billion pounds to build. We combined a visit to this office with a look at the new museum housing the Roman Temple of Mithras, which is incorporated into it. I have been guiding for long enough to remember pointing it out to people on the way to the Tower of London when it was above ground.
Anne Pollak, who is a guide and has worked for Bloomberg, took us around the new building, which is full of interesting modern artwork and has some terrific views of old London, especially St Paul’s Cathedral. It is made from Derbyshire sandstone (almost 10,000 tons of it) and has distinctive bronze fins which can shield the occupants from direct sunlight but can also be opened up to allow natural air in. They were very proud of their sustainability rating of 98.5% – the highest for a building in London. There is a communal area known as the Pantry where people can interact and brainstorm ideas while drinking Mr Bloomberg’s coffee and eating his granola bars. One guide said that it was a far cry from when she worked in an office and you were given precisely nothing for free.
I was curious as to how the money was generated and Anne demonstrated on one of their computer screens. Take a company like Boeing: you could see a set of lines on one side which led to their suppliers and on the other to those they supplied to (mainly airlines, presumably). You could see the stock market valuation, share price, profits and size of each company with a couple of clicks. Over 300,000 clients pay good money for this information and Bloomberg now has its own television station and distributes news and data in nine languages. To me, the real work of the economy is done the firms which supply parts, build planes and fly them. The real money, however, seems to be in providing data.
Bloomberg is now in the top ten of wealthiest Americans, has served three terms as mayor of New York and is a major philanthropist. He has many links with London and was very hands on in his development of the new building with the architect Norman Foster, always saying that they were guests in the city. There was talk of him running for president but we ended up with another billionaire in the White House. No further comment.