On Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the New York City Council to suspend a term-limits law and allow him to seek a third consecutive term as mayor. The City Council responded by asking if there was anything else it could get for the mayor while it was up. Coffee? Tea? Maybe a nice, cold beer for Hizzoner after a long day of Machiavellian machinations? Those can be so tiring, after all.
By virtue of not being Rudolph Giuliani, Bloomberg is already considered one of the great chief executives in New York history. He presided over the city's post-9/11 economic recovery, and ... well, yeah. Almost every other major Bloomberg initiative -- the 2012 Olympics bid, the West Side stadium proposal, congestion pricing -- has gotten about as much traction as Charles Rangel at a roundtable discussion on ethics. Still, Bloomberg remains hugely popular -- and hugely rich. But by taking on a term-limit law even more popular than he is, the mayor risks tarnishing a legacy that, should he leave office without protest, would remain uncommonly tarnish-free. What Bloomberg needs is not another term as mayor, but another job -- a bigger job. And with someone else about to fill his favored position (President of the United States), there's only one move that makes any sense at all:
Michael Bloomberg needs to buy the New York Yankees.
Now, technically, the Yankees are not available. But New York magazine raised the specter of a sale last month while profiling George Steinbrenner's sons Hank and Hal, who, now that Dad has been moved to a nice place where the nurses are really good with him, may be getting ready to put a "by owner" sign in front of the family home:
"Selling the cable channel [YES, the Yankees' TV outlet], which could bring in as much as $3 billion, might be one strategy for the Steinbrenner family to pump cash into the team and maintain control. Or, more likely, it could have been a test of how much they could cash in by selling the team entirely when George is gone."
Forbes values the franchise at more than $1 billion, but that doesn't include the YES network or New Yankee Stadium, which will open next season at a cost of $1.6 billion. Bundle the three properties, and the price tag approaches $6 billion. In a time when our nation's super rich are eyeing the Waring Hudsucker Memorial Exit, Bloomberg -- Forbes' eighth richest human in America, worth $20 billion -- may be one of the only people able to afford the Yankees.
But more important to New Yorkers, Bloomberg would bring Steinbrenner-esque gravitas to the throne of the Evil Empire. True, he lacks the temperament to dispatch angry tirades -- and losing managers -- in the Steinbrenner fashion. He's too businesslike for that. But the mayor and the Boss do have a generous appreciation for self in common. In Bloomberg, this leads to a managerial style based on the notion that some people are worth his time, but most are not. ("He doesn't suffer fools," a friend who covers City Hall once told me. "And that's not how you run a city.") When the mayoral mouth opens, it's no coincidence that most things out of it sound like "Oh shut up, you f--king baby." That may not be the best way to run a city, but it would be one hell of an entertaining way to run a baseball team. And Steinbrenner accustomed Yankees fans to two things: winning results on the field and Shakespearean drama off of it. Bloomberg is smart enough and narcissistic enough to deliver both.