Ron Bloom, Obama's Car Non-Czar

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United Steelworkers / AP

Ron Bloom

If U.S. auto makers are going to survive — government bailout or not — there's no leaving out the United Auto Workers. Delicate negotiations on things like retiree health benefits will be necessary as the car companies, unions and the government try to chart a course that will keep the American auto industry afloat. Enter Ron Bloom. President Obama has scrapped his initial plan for a "car czar", but Bloom — who has strong ties to private banking and labor — will reportedly serve in a high-profile advisory role on an automobile task force at the Department of the Treasury. (See the 50 worst cars of all time)

Fast Facts:

• Is currently employed by the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers union, which has 1.2 million working and retired members. Bloom has worked as a special assistant to the USW president since 1996 and his duties include helping the union affect corporate business restructuring, investments, bankruptcies and mergers. He is particularly known for working on deals related to recent steel industry bankruptcies. In many of these deals, the USW made considerable concessions in order to help steel companies stay afloat.

• Before taking a position with the steelworkers union, worked as an investment banker for 10 years, including as a vice president for Lazard Freres & Co. As a banker, he often worked on investment deals related to unions.

• In January 1990, Bloom and another Lazard banker quit the company to start their own boutique firm.

• Bloom is a 53 year-old New York native, has a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he came from a proud union family that includes an aunt who was a leader in the teachers' union.

• After graduating from Wesleyan, he worked for the Jewish Labor Committee and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He reportedly decided to go to business school so he could help unions navigate the business world.

• Is known as both a fierce negotiator and a creative problem solver who helped shepherd the steel industry through a painful transition period. His knowledge of the financing, as well as the labor, side of negotiations is thought to be the reason Obama tapped him to be an adviser on auto issues.

• As a banker, played a major role in deals between airlines and unions in the early 1990s — facilitating employee givebacks in exchange for stock, for example.

• Helped put together a union contract with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in 2003 that could shed light on how he might approach the car industry. The deal includes executive compensation limits and provisions to preserve American jobs.

Quotes By:

• "Let me give you some advice. First, we are big believers in dentist chair bargaining. For those of you not familiar with this approach, it is inspired by the story of the man who walks into his dentist's office, grabs the dentist by the balls and says, 'now, let's not hurt each other.' We do have a lot to lose and we and everybody else knows it. But what you need to understand is that we are willing to lose it."
— Prepared remarks for a speech to an International Association of Restructuring, Insolvency & Bankruptcy Professionals conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., May 21, 2006

• "Hi, it's Ron, you know the drill."
— greeting on Bloom's office phone and cellphone, according to the Wall Street Journal, Feb. 19, 2009

• "They don't take cultural offense to anything. They just deal with power."
— on private equity firms' approach to dealing with unions, Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2007

• "I was very fortunate and privileged to be able to make a very nice living... But at the end of the day, people have to do different things: Your heart and soul will also have to be fed."
— on why he left investment banking to go work for the USW, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 26, 1996

Quotes About:

• "He didn't come to work in thousand-dollar suits. He wore blue jeans and stayed up late and came to the crummy dives with us to eat."
— Duane Woerth, former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, on Bloom's lack of pretense, Reuters, Feb. 17, 2009

• "The management of the Big Three are probably not going to like what Ron Bloom has to say; the UAW is not going to like what Ron Bloom has to say; and certainly the stockholders and creditors will not like what he has to say."
— Michael Psaros, a co-founder of KPS Capital Partners, a private equity group, on Bloom's tough negotiating skills, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 17, 2009

• "He is a passionate, committed guy, totally idealistic."
— Michelle Galanter Applebaum, a longtime steel industry analyst, New York Times, Feb. 16, 2009

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