Bloomberg’s Missing Billionaire

This is rich, and no pun is intended.

I criticized Bloomberg News yesterday for its policy of not covering its parent company, which means it won’t calculate and include owner Michael Bloomberg’s wealth in its new daily Billionaires Index. That Bloomberg Way policy means it can’t fully cover the media business and leaves holes in its coverage of competitors like Thomson Reuters.

Felix Salmon, who works for Reuters and contributes to The Audit from time to time, notes that Bloomberg’s policy may have just kept David Thomson, chairman of Thomson Reuters, in its rankings of the top 20 billionaires.

Thomson squeezes into the last spot on Bloomberg’s list, with a net worth of $22.3 billion as of March 6.

That means Thomson, the primary owner of Bloomberg’s chief competitor, just might be on Bloomberg’s list because Bloomberg won’t include its own owner on the list. Its well intentioned-but-overly-rigid conflicts-of-interest policy means it’s okay for it to write about its competitor but not about itself—a major player in the media and information businesses.

And wouldn’t you know it, when you look at that other, more famous list of billionaires, over at Forbes, Michael Bloomberg happens to be No. 20, with a net worth the mag puts at $22 billion, well ahead of Thomson (and family), who Forbes says is worth $17.5 billion.

These news organizations’ estimates of rich people’s wealth involve a certain amount of finesse, as you can see, so it’s quite possible Bloomberg’s methodology might find $301 million for the mayor than Forbes did. I’ve asked Bloomberg whether including Michael Bloomberg would have knocked Thomson off the list, and I’ll update if I hear from them. Regardless, this shows why excluding yourself from coverage, particularly when you’re a major player, is a bad idea.

As Audit Chief Dean Starkman says, “these contortions create distortions.” Just include Mayor Mike in the list already. Excluding yourself from coverage just doesn’t work.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,