Neighbor: Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg. Photo credit: Genesis Prize
Michael Bloomberg. Photo credit: Genesis Prize

He’s finally here, yes, Michael Bloomberg, a name associated with smart money decisions has decided to add a Hamptons residence to his portfolio of investments.

I once wrote in a real estate column that there aren’t enough “trophy homes” for the true winners, but make no mistake about it, Michael Bloomberg found one. When he contracted to acquire (for around $20-plus million) “Ballyshear,” an estate designed by F. Burrill Hoffman Jr. in 1913 for National Golf Links of America founder Charles Blair Macdonald, Bloomberg spoke about his actions, saying that after years of quietly declining to be a Hamptons presence he is now about to make big footprints in the region. But that has been his signature—whatever he does he seems to do it with a determination to win. [expand]

Michael Bloomberg was born in New England (the Brighton section of Boston) on February 14, 1942, the son of a real estate broker. His grandfather was a Russian Jewish Immigrant. And to portray just how strong and healthy his family bloodline runs, his beloved mother Charlotte Rubens Bloomberg passed away at the age of 102 this past June 19, 2011. Many remember how proud she was of her son and how lovingly he always looked at her. The Bloombergs later lived in Allston, Massachusetts, then in Brookline, but spent most of Michael’s pre-college life in Medford, Massachusetts. One has to wonder where he was the night Carlton Fisk hit that historic home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1967 World Series. Most likely at Harvard where he was getting his MBA after having completed his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.

The amazing thing about Bloomberg’s rise to the very top of the financial world is that he was “not kept” at Salomon Brothers after becoming a general partner. Starting at the firm in 1973, Bloomberg became head of equity trading and then, in a move that perhaps influenced his mindset later in life, he became head of the systems development at Salomon—before being sent packing with a $10 million severance deal. The beautiful “American Dream” reality is that he then parlayed that $10 million into one of the world’s great fortunes.

Speaking of great fortunes, Bloomberg’s new Hamptons home, Ballyshear, is one of the special Gilded Age mansions that survived the great hurricane of 1938 intact due to its fortress-like solid brick construction. A real estate agent called it the sort of home you would find in the most exclusive sections of Oyster Bay, Locust Valley or Bedford Hills. Amazingly, the interiors remain as they were when the great Charles Blair Macdonald walked his royal friends about after a round on his famous golf course that had holes modeled precisely on those at St. Andrews in Scotland.

Now Bloomberg steps into this legacy with the resources to maintain the property in style. The estate sits high on a magnificent hill, with Shinnecock Hills off in the distance and the National Golf Links of America smiling at it as well. All this with a direct view of the Noyac Bay area that before World War II housed the National Golf Links Yacht Club, a club so exclusive that few nonmembers knew it existed. So Ballyshear is where the man who took over the reins of New York City from Giuliani after the September 11 attacks, the man who was an unlikely contender, an unknown former registered Democrat turned Republican who eventually became Mayor, has chosen to relax in the Hamptons.

Many marvel at the expense Michael Bloomberg personally paid to become and remain Mayor of New York City (perhaps over $350 million). Others wonder why he fostered a change in the law to enable him to be elected to a third term (which he barely won over a featherweight, even though he outspent him by perhaps a few hundred million dollars in the campaign). A television political pundit explained on one particular election night that Bloomberg “wanted to win, he won, he paid a huge price, but he won. There are others who spend a great deal of their money on public office and lost badly.” This perhaps is the determined mindset that enabled Bloomberg to create the company Market Master, which he spun into what is Bloomberg L.P. today.

That first year, 1982, after his departure from Salomon, it was Merrill Lynch that purchased 22 Market Master terminals, which are now called “Bloomberg machines” by those in the business. With exclusive timely information being of the highest importance in the financial markets, it was just a matter of a very short time before Bloomberg’s machine caught the gust of wind that became the hurricane of the tech industry in the world. By 1987 Market Master had installed 5,000 terminals and by 2010 well over 250,000 terminals worldwide, along with other products like the Bloomberg Tradebook and the Bloomberg Messaging Service. Now there is a Bloomberg network, radio station, and so much more. That is why his net worth is estimated to be anywhere from $7.5 billion to $20 billion. Which reminds me of the line, “If you know how much money you have then you must not have that much.”

Bloomberg was married once to Susan Brown, in 1975 and has two lovely daughters from that marriage: Emma, who is now just over 30 and Georgina, who is now just under 30. Georgina has been known to enjoy the Hamptons horse scene and rides in competition form. There is no doubt that in his post-Mayor future and perhaps his pre-Presidential mode Michael Bloomberg will have better local access to his daughter’s riding. Also, he has recently been enjoying the company of the former New York State Banking Superintendent, Diana Taylor. The vibrant and effervescent Taylor will be a welcome member to the Hamptons summer scene, should she choose to be.

When it comes to Bloomberg’s philanthropic endeavors the list is very impressive. He is always in the top 10 in contributions. He has given well over $300 million to Johns Hopkins University, and through his Bloomberg Family Foundation gives out around $200 million a year to causes such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health, the World Lung Foundation and the World Health Organization. He also partnered with Bill Gates to give an addition $500 million to reign in the negative effects of tobacco in other countries. He sends tens of millions to the Carnegie Corporation. He has endowed the William Henry Bloomberg Professorship at Harvard with a $3 million gift in honor of his father, who died in 1963. Also endowed by Mr. Bloomberg’s philanthropy is his hometown synagogue, Temple Shalom, which was renamed for his parents as the William and Charlotte Bloomberg Jewish Community Center of Medford, and the list goes on and on. So it is very clear what a wonderful addition this dynamic man will be to the South Fork of Long Island. He seems to be of the “speak softly and carry a big stick” variety.

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