Esquire: Bloomberg Loves High-Speed Trains, Goldman

Esquire published a long feature profile of Mayor Bloomberg today, chronicling his trip to China for a conference with some of the world’s most powerful mayors to discuss global warming. There was some drooling over high speed Chinese trains, a face down with a thermal scanning gun, some icy moments with city comptroller John Liu, and an awkward bathroom interaction.

On capitalism:

“In America, the ultimate capitalist system, government is getting in the way of everything,” he declares.

“Listen, capitalism works. If they weren’t making money, they wouldn’t survive.”

On the uproar from the appointment of Cathie Black as Schools Chancellor:

His exasperation flashes again. “Where are the people manning the barricades? They had a big thing on the steps of City Hall, I don’t think they had fifty people. There’s no great outcry here! The New York Times is on a jihad.”

Clearly, it’s frustrating having to explain himself like this, especially after all he’s done for the city, especially to people who don’t understand how the world works. “It’s the mayor’s decision,” he says, “that’s what mayoral control means – they serve at the mayor’s pleasure, all his commissioners, all his deputy mayors, and you don’t do a public search. What are you talking about?

What world do you live in? Did you ever do a search for president of a university?”

Um, no.

“I was chairman of the board for Johns Hopkins, I did two searches, okay?”

He’s so forceful, so absolutely certain of himself. His confidence is a thing with texture and size, grown vast in the hothouse of his fortune.

“I’m not certain,” he says. “I’m right.”

On Goldman Sachs:

So far, everything Bloomberg has done in China has had an ecological theme — the global-warming conference, the trains, a solar factory. But now he’s stopping at Hepalink Pharmaceutical, the world’s largest supplier of a drug that stops blood clots, which is owned by the richest couple in China, and the first thing he does is acknowledge the chairman of the Asian division of Goldman Sachs [J. Michael Evans]. “We just spent an hour in the car together. It turns out that his best friend is one of my best friends.”

The Chinese nod agreeably and move on to formal expressions of regard. “Of course, Mayor Bloomberg, we know your news organization in China.”

Bloomberg loves that. “Don’t ever talk to any other news organization!”

As the tour begins, comptroller Liu approaches Evans. “What’s the Goldman Sachs connection?”

There are so many ways to answer that question. The connection is that Goldman invested $4.9 million in Hepalink and made more than a billion dollars’ profit when it went public last summer. That Goldman is vital to the economic health of New York City. That some of Bloomberg’s top appointees came from Goldman’s upper ranks. That Goldman leases many thousands of Bloomberg terminals. But Evans just says they had a position in the company, which is interesting because it is operating at a high level of industrial complexity — not making T-shirts or cheap toys, that’s for sure. It is the new China, the China of the future.

They come to a stop at a porthole and gawk through the glass at workers dressed head to foot in sanitary white unitards, like extras in a George Lucas movie.

On his way out, Bloomberg does a quick Q&A with a group of Chinese reporters. They’re pretty smooth, warming him up with softballs before getting down to business. “So why do you choose these two companies, because there are many companies here in Shenzhen?”

“I wanted to pick the couple of companies that were really ahead of their times, pushing the envelope and making a great difference, and I also depended on Goldman Sachs for advice.”

“So they give you this kind of suggestions?”

“Yes, both these companies were picked or suggested by Goldman Sachs. I turn to the experts.”

The Chinese reporters turn to the pressing question of the Fed’s latest purchase of bonds, which they are alarmed about. They get specialized, talking about firewalls and hot money, and Bloomberg’s right there with them, respecting the right of a central bank to engage in quantitative easing but always wishing the best for both nations as they work together to build a better world. Then he thanks the people of Shenzhen and heads for the Mercedes.

On the way out, Evans catches his eye and gives him a little nod: Thank you.

On the merits of a city upbringing:

“I think kids should grow up in the city,” he says. “I’ll tell you a great story – when my oldest went to Princeton, the first three weeks, she hated it. I said, ‘Emma, why?’ She said, ‘Daddy, all they do is drink!’ I said, ‘Emma you’ve never turned down a drink in your life.’ She said, ‘Daddy, I did this in the tenth grade.’ “

  Esquire: Bloomberg Loves High-Speed Trains, Goldman