Would it be fair to say that Ron Bloom has a unionist's heart and an investment banker's soul? Or would that insult one or both parties? A Harvard-trained banker who later hired on with the hard-as-nails United Steelworkers, Bloom, now the nation's so-called car czar, is not easy to categorize. But his role in brokering the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler while preserving more than 100,000 jobs demanded a synergist who could work both sides of the equation with authority and respect.
The risks were huge. Had GM and Chrysler gone under, economists feared a series of cascading bankruptcies as thousands of partsmakers and other aligned businesses followed. Bloom's bottom line: the U.S. lent a bankrupt GM $52 billion and Chrysler $15 billion. GM has repaid $6.7 billion of its tab five years early. Chrysler hopes to break even by year's end and is a ward of Fiat rather than Uncle Sam. As a reward, President Obama has handed Bloom, 55, the job of senior adviser for manufacturing policy. He may only manufacture deals, but that's been more than enough to retool the Rust Belt.