ink-stained wretches

Bloomberg’s Freaky Fun House

The horror within is totally whimsical.

There is a “culture of verbal abuse and terror,” at Bloomberg News, one employee tells Seth Mnookin in his story about the news service in Vanity Fair. The “verbal abuse” part will not surprise you if you happen to have heard the insane recording of former editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler reaming out an employee last year. But what is surprising and really terrifying at least to us, about the Bloomberg culture is how infused with whimsy it is. There is Winkler, who is a) called Winkler and b) is never seen without a Pee-Wee Herman–esque bow tie, and Norman Pearlstine, the new honcho, who VF tells us favors “English spread-collar dress shirts, eye-catching cuff links, and preening ties,” and Lex Fenwick, a London-based executive who recently stepped down but was “known for purple suits” and installing a boxing ring in the London office to psych up his employees. Bloomberg’s office in New York is similarly done up to seem all fun — except it’s actually so, so scary. Mnookin describes it as “a cross between the worlds of Terry Gilliam’s dystopian classic Brazil and Pixar’s Toy Story:

The walls are inlaid with fishtanks stocked with exotic, brightly colored species from around the world. Neon news zippers fight for attention with high-concept, ultra-modern art, including a chandelier programmed to blink out text by a Welsh Marxist writer, and an 11-by-16-foot titanium-alloy cloud, which is suspended from the ceiling. Every 10 minutes or so, a techno-inflected jingle rings out over a building-wide intercom, signifying that someone, somewhere, is being paged … Bloomberg L.P.’s offices around the world offer free food — in New York there is everything from Cup-a-Soups and microwavable Chinese lunches to Rice Krispie Treats and Oreos. Emergency survival kits, complete with hand-cranked radios and gas masks, are located under every desk. “There was a part of it I sort of liked,” says one former employee … “The mentality is that, if you’re there, you’ll get taken care of. That’s part Orwellian and part paternalism.” The free junk food was great, he said, “but it was there to keep us from going out for coffee.”

Holy shudder. The only things missing are clowns and circus music.

Bloomberg Without Bloomberg [VF]

Bloomberg’s Freaky Fun House