A few weeks after installing himself at City Hall, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff called up an old friend at McKinsey & Company and asked for a favor: a few months of consulting services for absolutely no money.
The friend, Laurie Blitzer, who was running the nonprofit division for the firm at the time, obliged. Her team turned out a strategic plan for economic development—more office space and affordable housing, fewer tax incentives—that the Bloomberg administration is still following today.
Since then, McKinsey has obliged many more times, sometimes for pay, sometimes for free. The enigmatic consulting firm volunteered to troubleshoot the Police and Fire Departments’ responses on Sept. 11. McKinsey took part in the restructuring that followed the Mayor’s takeover of the Department of Education, and produced a $523,000 report on how the city could stand its ground against London in the struggle over global capital.
Most recently, it mined the data needed to drive PlaNYC, the seven-month process that led to Mr. Bloomberg proposing a congestion-pricing system and 126 other proposals to make the city more livable by 2030.
While previous Mayors have relied on McKinsey’s expertise—not to mention the veritable blessing that its name bestows upon any project it undertakes—it’s hard to imagine that any other Mayor has built up such a special relationship with the firm as Mr. Bloomberg has.
And why not? A C.E.O. Mayor and the consulting firm known for being a C.E.O.’s best friend. A leader who believes in looking at the cold hard data, and a company ready to provide it. Bloomberg’s “bullpen”; McKinsey’s “teams.” And so on and so forth.
“This is an administration that believes in strategic thinking, and they look for first-class support for that strategic thinking,” said John Alschuler, who, as president of Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler, sometimes competes with McKinsey for contracts. “They clearly have a high degree of respect for McKinsey, but they are hardly unique in that regard.”