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Bloomberg’s Davos and Some Disney Dish

Mike Bloomberg and Justin Smith
Photo by Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Dylan Byers
November 12, 2021

“We’re in the middle of a once-in-a-many-generation transition in the world order,” Justin Smith, the chief executive of Bloomberg Media, told me earlier this week. Smith, who joined Bloomberg nearly a decade ago with the general mandate to elevate its once-somnolent media business from a shiny, if unprofitable, shingle on its extraordinary, money-minting data terminal empire to something worthy of its founder’s namesake, has always been a lofty thinker. In his previous stops on the media carousel, he co-founded a series of consumer-facing Internet properties during Web 1.0; then he helped usher Quartz into the world, which simultaneously revived The Atlantic’s reputation in the process. When he arrived at Bloomberg, he took a series of bold swings, hiring big names such as Josh Topolsky, John Heilemann, and a pre-scandal Mark Halperin to make the brand younger and more fashionable. 

Some of these strategies worked, others didn’t, but over time Smith proved correct that media was indeed at an inflection point, and he used his enviable resources to build a powerful subscription business, events cottage industry, and short-form video product. Ten years ago, when A-list executives like Andy Lack and Norm Pearlstine were trying to pivot Bloomberg Media, no one would have ever thought it could become what it is today: Not just massively influential, sure, but also cool and sophisticated.