NYC mayoral race favorite Eric Adams privately seeks partnerships with business leaders

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Eric Adams, Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor, speaks during a campaign appearance in Brooklyn, New York, June 11, 2021.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Eric Adams may not be the mayor of New York, but he is already starting to privately seek an alliance with several of the city’s most influential business leaders.

Adams, the overwhelming favorite to win the mayor’s race in the fall, started speaking to executives just after he secured the Democratic nomination earlier this month following a grueling primary, according to people familiar with the matter. Those who declined to be named do so in order to speak freely about private conversations.

Adams’ attempt to reach an understanding with the wealthy executives comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio battled with business leaders for years. The two-term Democratic mayor has called for raising taxes on the wealthy and has reportedly ignored business leaders’ suggestions on how to handle the Covid pandemic.

“Breath of fresh air and very promising,” said a longtime Wall Street executive who met with Adams in recent days. This person said Adams wants to work with business leaders and various experts to help recruit top talent to work at City Hall.

Kathryn Wylde, the CEO of pro-business group Partnership for New York City, said she heard from Adams shortly after he won the primary. Adams said he wanted to hear her ideas on how to create a better relationship between City Hall and business leaders, she told CNBC. 

The organization, which has over 300 members, plans to host an in-person meet-and-greet for Adams in September, barring any new Covid restrictions. All members are invited to the gathering. Previously, Adams took part in several virtual meetings with the group.

The Partnership for New York City’s executive committee includes J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and former hedge fund executive John Paulson.

Politico reported that Dimon called Adams to congratulate him and the two expressed interest in working together. The outlet also said Adams chatted with billionaire and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Charles Phillips, a former president of tech giant Oracle and a previous co-chair of veteran Citigroup executive Ray McGuire’s primary campaign for mayor, has recently met with Adams, a person familiar with the matter explained.

Billionaire and Gristedes grocery store founder John Catsimatidis was photographed with Adams at the famed Italian restaurant Rao’s.

Executives are relieved at what they see as Adams’ pro-business message.

“The fact that he’s focused on public safety, good management, data driven management and creating a business friendly and wealthy friendly climate” are all factors that have encouraged executives to speak to Adams, Wylde said. She added: “We haven’t heard that message in many years.”

Business leaders hope they might have their best chance at working with the mayor’s office after years of battles with de Blasio, Wylde and several others said to CNBC.

Another executive said business leaders are hopeful that Adams, a retired police captain and the current Brooklyn borough president, would usher in more private-public partnerships. 

Evan Thies, a spokesman for Adams, told CNBC in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the Democratic candidate for mayor believes a happy business community will help the City prosper.

“In order to grow our economy and recover from Covid so that the unemployed and working class New Yorkers can prosper, Eric believes it is critical to create a positive business environment for economic partners who will provide the jobs, training and internships New Yorkers need,” Thies said.

A spokesman for de Blasio did not respond a request for comment before publication.

The general election is set for Nov. 2. Adams’ GOP opponent is Curtis Sliwa, the founder of anti-crime group the Guardian Angels.

Wall Street dollars backed Adams in a big way during the primary. A super PAC backing Adams received more than $4 million from executives in the finance sector, including Steve Cohen, Dan Loeb, Ken Griffin and Stanley Druckenmiller.

Adams is also embarking a “thank you tour” to laud those who supported him, another person with direct knowledge of the matter explained. He has already been in touch with union leaders and charter school advocates. 

The super PAC backing Adams was run and partially funded by proponents for charter schools. A person familiar with Adams’ interactions says that although he hasn’t thanked executives for giving to the PAC, he has been in touch with some of them about working together if he becomes mayor.

Adams received endorsements from dozens of unions, including being ranked second by the influential New York State Nurses Association.

These conversations “will give him [Adams] some leeway if he does something that they don’t agree with, they at least know he’s a friend,” a person with knowledge of these discussions told CNBC. “Great messaging and great politics on his end.”

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