Michael Bloomberg finally emerged from six-and-a-half hours of board meetings into the sunshine outside Baltimore's Evergreen House, a neoclassical mansion once owned by a 19th century railroad magnate.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg is a magnate himself, but of a uniquely 20th century industry -- information.
He has built his Bloomberg News service into a billion-dollar force in only 15 years, challenging the venerable Dow Jones as the preferred provider of information to the financial world.
With a new book on the stands -- "Bloomberg by Bloomberg" -- his name is in the news even more than usual these days. The success of his company, and the growing stature of his public persona, fuel speculation about what he might do next.
Will he try to buy the Wall Street Journal? Now that he's moved into radio and television, is Bloomberg out to become a mass media king? Or will he take his billions and party into the sunset?
Settling into a maroon leather chair in the Hopkins rare book library at Evergreen, the feisty and garrulous Bloomberg, 55, made the case that his drive is unchecked and unchanged.
"I think we should always focus on a strategy of serious news for upscale people with a business and financial bent," he said.
In January, Bloomberg changed the tag line on his wire service from Bloomberg Business News to simply Bloomberg News. Some wondered if it meant the company was broadening its scope.
Not at all, he said.
"Some of the newspapers started using some of our sports reports, and I thought it would just make it more broad and doesn't limit it as much if we get rid of the word business," he said.
The only reason Bloomberg offers sports, he said, is because his clients are all "sports freaks" who would turn away without it.
Financial news remains the backbone "because that's where I can make a cogent argument that we can do that better than anybody else I'd be hard-pressed to make the case that we do general news better than everybody else."
Bloomberg Information Television is also changing its name, to Bloomberg TV -- primarily to translate more smoothly into other languages, he said. Expanding into overseas markets is one of Bloomberg's priorities, along with plowing money into improving his network of news gatherers, analysts and processors. He said he has increased budgets in all departments by one-third this year.
Citing a recurring theme from his book -- "I'm a builder, not a buyer" -- Bloomberg insisted that he would rather use his profits on his own company than on purchasing another one.
Some have speculated that he has sights on the holy testament of financial news, the Wall Street Journal. Bloomberg denied it.
Even if the owners wanted to sell, he said, other companies with more capital would elbow Bloomberg out of the way.
He also denied having any interest in buying Telerate, the troubled Dow Jones financial data system that competes with Bloomberg. It was clear, though, that he had given some thought to the matter. First, he said, there would be a great overlap in customer base. Second, the transition period would take a long time -- meaning Bloomberg would be paying for 100 percent of Telerate's expenses while benefiting from only a portion of its business, he said. "If it's a problem child now, that really makes it unattractive," he said.
And finally, it would probably entail laying off a couple of thousand Telerate employees -- something Bloomberg said he has no desire to do.
"I don't want to eat my words someday, but I've never been able to see how it makes sense for us to buy it," he said. "Rather than go buy Telerate, I think it behooves us to take the money and to expand our product line and how we service it and grow that way."
Pointing out that Bloomberg now has 75,000 subscribers and is growing by 30 percent a year, he predicted that he would eclipse Telerate in another 18 months.
True to his reputation for cockiness, Bloomberg brushed off the notion that he had anything to fear from competitors like Tele- rate or Reuters or anyone else.
"I would rather be at the top of the pyramid having everybody trying to knock me off than to be down below trying to climb my way up with somebody pouring boiling oil on me," he said.
Bloomberg deflated another rumor making the rounds these days: that he is about to start up his own financial newspaper. He could never compete with the Wall Street Journal, he said. And to aim for the level of, say, Investors Daily, would mean splitting up a finite market of readers.
But he does not deny having plans overseas, and in fact brought up the topic himself. "There have been rumors that say that we are going to do a business newspaper in the [United Kingdom] joint with the Mirror Group. That story has been in a number of British newspapers," he said without elaborating.