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Bloomberg to Sell Interests if Elected 02/19 06:10

   SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- 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.

   O'Brien's comment comes amid increasing scrutiny of Bloomberg's wealth and 
business holdings from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. 
He'll face them on the debate stage for the first time on Wednesday in Las 
Vegas.

   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. 

   Bloomberg created his own company in 1981, after he was fired from the 
investment bank Salomon Brothers with a $10 million severance payment. His new 
venture created the Bloomberg Terminal, a dedicated computer with proprietary 
software that allowed Wall Street traders, buyers and sellers to see financial 
transaction data in real time. The terminal quickly became a must-have product 
around the financial world and has been used by entities including the World 
Bank and the Federal Reserve Bank.

   Bloomberg then grew the business to include a financial news arm, which has 
morphed into a major news wire service. The outlet has faced criticism for 
allowing its reporters to cover the campaign but blocking them from reporting 
in-depth investigations into Bloomberg or his Democratic rivals. Newsroom 
leaders didn't impose similar restrictions on reporting regarding Trump.

   Bloomberg has also faced renewed scrutiny over lawsuits filed by women at 
his company alleging discrimination or hostile treatment. Bloomberg has said he 
won't release women from any nondisclosure agreements they've signed with the 
company.

   Bloomberg entered the presidential race in November and has been steadily 
climbing in national polls, buoyed by $400 million in advertising. Worth an 
estimated $60 billion, he is entirely self-funding his campaign.


(KR)

 
 
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