Bloomberg News Buried Expose of Chinese Elite to Protect Owner's Business Ties
Editor killed story over fears it'd harm billionaire Michael Bloomberg's China interests
Bloomberg News buried an exposé of one of China's top elites over fears the story would harm the outlet's billionaire owner's Chinese business interests, according to a bombshell report.
The news outlet reportedly killed an investigative piece on a Chinese aristocrat over concerns the country's communist regime would cut business ties with Michael Bloomberg if the story was published.
Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News's founding editor-in-chief, blocked the article on China’s wealthiest man, Wang Jianlin.
The story was pulled in 2013 over fears that the exposé could bring retribution from the Chinese government.
The revelation comes as American political leaders are ramping up pressure on US businesses to sever ties with China, especially in the wake of the Chinese-originated coronavirus that has effectively shut down the global economy.
At the time, Winkler and other Bloomberg News editors said the second installment was tabled because it needed additional reporting.
In a 2013 conference call with the reporters who worked on the story, Winkler gave a different rational.
“It is for sure going to, you know, invite the Communist Party to, you know, completely shut us down and kick us out of the country,” Winkler said.
“So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified.”
“The inference is going to be interpreted by the government there as we are judging them,” Winkler said, expressing worry about publishing reporting on Wang Jianlin and his connections to President Xi.
“And they will probably kick us out of the country. They’ll probably shut us down, is my guess.”
The recordings obtained by NPR confirm comments made during the 2013 conference call that were reported in part at the time.
NPR’s reporting also backs up accusations made by journalist Leta Hong Fincher, the wife of former Bloomberg News Beijing correspondent Mike Forsythe, one of the reporters who worked on the investigation into China’s elite.
Fincher said that Bloomberg L.P. “threatened to devastate my family financially” if she did not sign a non-disclosure agreement over her husband’s work.
After the first article ran in 2012, China cracked down on Bloomberg’s operations within the country.
The regime refused to renew reporter visas and raided Bloomberg News offices.
The Chinese government also began cutting business ties with Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News and owned and controlled by Bloomberg.
Bloomberg L.P.’s chief product is one-year leases on its Bloomberg terminals, which contain a host of finance monitoring tools as well as grant early access to Bloomberg News articles.
An annual lease for a terminal costs at least $20,000.
Bloomberg viewed China as a priority for marketing the terminals and expanding business, three former Bloomberg executives told NPR.
After the Bloomberg News article on Xi dropped, the Chinese government ordered state-owned companies not to renew their leases for Bloomberg terminals.
In the 2013 conference call, Winkler did not kill the second story outright but suggested that the reporting team come up with a unique way of covering it that did not alienate the Chinese Communist Party leaders that controlled the government.
“It has to be done with a strategic framework and a tactical method that is … smart enough to allow us to continue and not run afoul of the Nazis who are in front of us and behind us everywhere,” Winkler said.
“And that’s who they are. And we should have no illusions about it.”