Bloomberg staff applaud as chief executive is reined in

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The Independent Online

Bloomberg, the US media empire owned by the mayor of New York, has been quietly making changes to its most senior personnel after rising internal concern about its autocratic style of management.

Journalists in Bloomberg's offices in the City of London are understood to have broken out in a spontaneous round of applause at the news that Lex Fenwick, the chief executive of Bloomberg who splits his time between London and New York, was being demoted to the same level as four other executives.

Mr Fenwick, who joined Bloomberg in 1987 and worked his way up from selling its terminals, which supply financial data and news, to the role of chief executive, has become famous for his tough style of management towards underlings who he believes are not performing well enough.

Mr Fenwick, who is British, is also known among Bloomberg insiders for his keenness to enforce rules in person, such as tackling employees whose security passes are not visible while inside the Bloomberg building. He was also responsible for removing the free salad and rolls from the staff canteen.

An apparently stunned newsroom openly rejoiced when Peter Grauer, Bloomberg's American chairman, made the announcement last Friday about the rejigging of the responsibilities of senior staff via a video link from New York. Mr Fenwick has been described in the American press as "a legendary screamer who presided over a reign of terror" at the company.

Under the plan, Bloomberg's New York-based editor in chief, Matthew Winkler, and research and development head, Tom Secunda, will report directly to Mr Grauer, along with Mr Fenwick. Previously, the people in these positions had had to answer to Mr Fenwick.

Also on the same reporting line as Mr Fenwick now is Patricia Roskill, the new head of administration who replaces Susan Calzone, who is leaving to rejoin Mr Bloomberg in his bid to be re-elected in New York.

Michael Bloomberg, who still owns about 72 per cent of the financial news company he founded 24 years ago, had ceded control of the business to Mr Fenwick when he ran for the mayor's office in 2001.

Despite rising sales of terminals, morale has been low among a substantial number of Bloomberg employees, thanks to the company's culture of long hours and aggressive targets.

Only last month Mr Fenwick pointed to the record growth achieved by the company, which surpassed its ambitious goal of installing 200,000 terminals around the world.

Bloomberg has won praise for emerging from nowhere and eating up a sizeable chunk of the market from its long-established rival, Reuters, and the US-based Thomson Financial. Analysts have pointed to its strong customer service, technology and single-product, fixed-price offering enabled the company to double its market share in the five years up to 2003.

Under a "one-size fits all" system, Bloomberg offers financial information, analysis, electronic trading and communication tools on its screens. It has also added news, television, radio, internet and publishing functions.

Bloomberg's revenues for 2004 are thought to have exceeded the $3.3bn (£1.8bn) made in the previous year. This has been achieved not least because it has defied the industry trend by pushing through price increases of about 5 per cent a year.

The underlying financial health of Bloomberg, however, remains opaque. As a privately owned company it is under no obligation to disclose profits or operating margins. As well as the majority stake held by Mr Bloomberg, Merrill Lynch has a 20 per cent holding. Bloomberg declined to comment on the personnel changes.