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Five businessmen who made successful politicians – and smashed the Donald Trump stereotype

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Many accomplished businessmen, seeking to expand the reach of their triumphs, have moved on to the arena of politics. However, the controversial views of one Donald Trump has had a poor reflection on the business world and undoubtedly squandered the chances of leaders whose acumen could have proved beneficial to the government.

Indeed, there a few who differ from the stereotype that suggests the two worlds are incompatible. The former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, is one example. With this in mind we rounded up a list of those who have proved as successful in politics as they were in business.

(1) Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg worked as a general partner at Wall Street investment firm Salomon Brothers, before it was bought in 1981. He used his severance package of $10m (£6.41m) to start Innovate Market Systems – later to be known as Bloomberg – with the concept that companies wanted up-to-date business information as quickly as possible.

In an article in 2013, Bloomberg said that to be a successful entrepreneur, one had to be persistent. He said: “When starting my company, I would go downtown and buy cups of coffee. Then I’d take the coffee up to Merrill Lynch – our target audience – and walk the hallways. ‘Hi,’ I would say. ‘I’m Mike Bloomberg and I brought you a cup of coffee. Can I talk to you?’

“Even if people were wondering who I was or where I came from, they still took the coffee. And I kept coming back, day after day, working to build relationships with potential customers. I learned about the audience for our product and what they could really use. Three years after starting the company, Merrill Lynch purchased 20 terminals and became our first customer.

In 2001, Bloomberg decided to enter the world of politics and ran for mayor of New York City. He won and took office in 2002, where he helped rebuild the city in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. When he wanted to run for a third term as mayor, Bloomberg campaigned to change the law that limited officials to only two terms in office – and won.

When he resigned in 2013, the New York Times said: “When he first walked into the mayor’s office, Bloomberg took charge of a damaged city. The World Trade Centre was a construction site, tourists were afraid to come to the city, and the budget was in the red. Bloomberg nevertheless pledged to rebuild New York. As he leaves office, Bloomberg has fulfilled that promise. More people are moving in than out. More than 54 million tourists crowded the streets in 2013. The crime rate is down, the transportation system is more efficient, the environment is cleaner, and he leaves a $2.4bn (£1.54bn) budget surplus.”

(2) Peter Cruddas

Businessman Peter Cruddas founded online financial services firm CMC Markets in 1989 with £10,000 and built it into a global player. In an article by the Daily Mail it was suggested that he undoubtedly had the Midas touch – not only for his business prowess but for his stint as treasurer and numerous political donations as well.

By his own admission he was a “dogsbody on the telex machines but took a keen interest in the trading floor”. He allegedly had a knack of calling the deals better than the traders.

But the no-nonsense, straight-talking style of Cruddas is not for the faint-hearted,” said the Daily Mail. “He prides himself on his Del Boy-style ‘cockney geezer’ background. His favourite catchphrase is: ‘I am just a plain meat-two-veg-and-gravy sort of man’.”

According to the Standard, it was suggested that the firm’s increasing profits was because he told staff to smarten up their act. Out went working from home, as well as free fruit in the office.

“If you want a nice lifestyle, go and work for Google or Apple,” said Cruddas. “I see it as a reflection of your attitude. If you get out of bed and have a shave and put on a smart suit it means you are ready for work. When I see people here dressed scruffily, I think their attitude is wrong. And it worked, to be honest.”

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In terms of politics, Cruddas was appointed Conservative Party co-treasurer in June 2011 alongside Lord Fink – effectively the party’s chief fund raiser – in succession to billionaire property tycoon David Rowland. 

Despite his success as a politician, it ended abruptly when he was wrongly accused of offering access to prime minister David Cameron and George Osborne in exchange for party donations in 2014. He soon returned to the helm of his company, and has plans for a  £1bn float

(3) Arnold Schwarzenegger

In 1968, Schwarzenegger and bodybuilder Franco Columbu started a bricklaying business, which flourished due to increased demand following the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. Schwarzenegger and Columbu used profits from the venture to start a mail order business, selling bodybuilding and fitness-related equipment and instructional tapes. He was a millionaire before he even joined Hollywood.

He has talked about some of those who helped him over the years in business: “I couldn’t have learned about business without a parade of teachers guiding me, from Milton Friedman to Donald Trump, and now Les Wexner and Warren Buffett. I even learned a thing or two from being a founding investor in Planet Hollywood – such as when to get out! And I did!”

When it became clear that California governor Gray Davis would be forced to defend his seat in a 2003 recall contest, Schwarzenegger was persuaded to campaign for the position.

Of course, Schwarzenegger won, and an endless onslaught of puns ensued. He was “The Running Man,” participating in a “Total Recall” election, set to become “The Governator.” More importantly, however, he would take on a state that had been affected by the dot-com collapse, the stalled economy and a budget deficit of $38bn (£24.35bn). 

According to NBC: “As governor, Schwarzenegger worked with leaders of both major political parties to address the greatest challenges facing the state. His leadership put California at the forefront of the nation in addressing climate change, pushing for the development of renewable energies, rebuilding critical infrastructure, investing in stem cell research and putting in place health care and political reforms.”

Read on for the business leader that used his ferocious love of pie charts to balance the budget.

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