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Union adviser Ronald Bloom heads auto task force

By A. James Memmott

July 15, 2009 at 8:03am

Ronald W. Bloom, a Wall Street investment banker who went on to become a labor union adviser, is taking over as head of President Obama’s task force on the auto industry.

Bloom, who had been a member of the task force, succeeds financier Steven L. Rattner.

Rattner served as the administration’s car czar for six eventful months, overseeing the bailouts of General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC.

A 1977 graduate of Wesleyan University, Bloom worked for the Jewish Labor Committee in New England and the Service Employees International Union before getting his M.B.A. at Harvard University.

He then went into investment banking, eventually becoming a vice president at Lazard Freres & Co., a company where Rattner also worked.

In 1990, Bloom left Lazard to establish Keilin & Bloom with a colleague Gene Keillin. The company advised unions on the boyouts of companies.

In 1996, Bloom, who comes from a union family, signed on with the International Steelworkers of America to serve as special assistant to the president.

The job change meant a loss of income, but Bloom said at the time it was a move he had to make.

“I was very fortunate and privileged to be able to make a very nice living,” he told a Pittsburg paper. “But at the end of the day, people have to do different things: Your heart and soul will also have to be fed.”

His new bosses were glad he made the switch.

“The steelworkers’ union welcomed him and his Harvard M.B.A. because he knew how to talk restructuring and debt rescheduling,” wrote The New York Times in February. “As a result, he could be just as knowledgeable - and cocksure - as the financial advisers management hired.”

Bloom’s work at the steelworkers union and his earlier career in finance prepared him for some of the problems faced by the auto industry.

He has worked on numerous bankruptcies, consolidations and downsizing, focusing on saving the companies and the jobs that could be saved.

“I found him first of all, very pragmatic, not overly ideological,” and “a very, very good negotiator,” financier Wilbur L. Ross Jr. told the Times.

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