It's impossible to buy stock in Bloomberg LP because it is a privately owned company. The company made its name with the eponymous Bloomberg terminal for financial data. It now also owns Businessweek magazine and the Bloomberg TV station, as well as several radio stations.
Bloomberg LP was founded in 1981. When Salomon Brothers was taken over by Phibro Corporation, Michael Bloomberg received a $10 million check for his partnership interest in the firm. He teamed up with Thomas Secunda, Duncan MacMillan and Charles Zegar to found Innovative Market Solutions (IMS). The company developed the Bloomberg Terminal system to track financial market information and calculate the price of financial instruments. Merrill Lynch invested $30 million in the company in 1984. The company was renamed Bloomberg LP in 1986, and by 1991 it had 10,000 of its terminals installed on finance professionals' desks. The terminals are now part of the professional services division, which brings in the majority of the company's estimated $8 billion of annual revenue.
Bloomberg LP bought back one-third of Merrill Lynch's stake in 1996 for $200 million. Bloomberg Inc., which manages Michael Bloomberg's assets, bought Merrill's remaining stake for a reported $4.43 billion in 2008.
The majority of the company has been owned by Michael Bloomberg since it was established, and he currently owns 88% of it. He served as chief executive officer (CEO) until he stepped aside to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, and he returned to that position in early 2015 at age 73.
Not Just Terminals
Bloomberg Professional Services charges $2,000 per month for each of its terminals, which are ubiquitous in finance due to their analysis, trading and communication abilities. There are reportedly over 320,000 subscribers worldwide. The company also has numerous other subscription services, including Bloomberg Law, which competes with LexisNexis. A separate service called Bloomberg Government provides detailed updates on congressional and regulatory changes and schedules; it publishes updated information almost instantaneously.
Bloomberg Television is a 24-hour cable news network established in 1994. Initially, it was only available on DirecTV, but it soon moved to cable television. The network runs more live programming than either CNBC or Fox Business News, but it has struggled for viewers. The network went through its largest-ever round of layoffs in September 2015, after which a number of producers resigned. Bloomberg's radio station is available in five markets: New York, Boston, Oakland/San Francisco, Atlanta and Denver.
The company purchased BusinessWeek magazine from McGraw Hill Financial in 2009 and renamed it Bloomberg Businessweek. The magazine has existed since shortly before the 1929 stock market collapse; it was originally aimed at business people but was later reoriented toward consumers. The magazine hit a high of 6 million readers in the mid-1970s, but it has faded since then. It's best known for its annual ranking of MBA programs.
Bloomberg Markets magazine ceased publication as a standalone news publication in late 2015. The magazine had long been sent to all terminal subscribers, but the company decided that it had outlived its usefulness. It will reportedly be relaunched in 2016, but it will only repackage news released on the terminals rather than incorporating investigative journalism, as it did previously.
Bloomberg's closest competitor is Thomson Reuters Corporation, which also leases proprietary financial information terminals. The publicly traded company reported 2014 revenue of $12.6 billion, primarily from subscription sales to its financial news and analysis services. However, the company's Thomson Reuters Eikon platform does not offer anything comparable to Bloomberg's securities analysis, pricing and trading services.
The next-closest competitor is Morningstar, a publicly traded company that also offers subscription-based data, research and proprietary pricing tools but not trading capabilities. Both companies offer detailed investment advice, but only Morningstar provides credit ratings and an investment consulting component. Both have their own publications, but Morningstar does not have a television or radio station.