Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is weighing a late entry into the 2016 U.S. presidential contest as an independent candidate.
The 73-year-old Bloomberg served three terms as the mayor of the biggest U.S. city and, since leaving office two years ago, has unsuccessfully sought to win support for tighter gun control laws in the U.S.
Bloomberg, with a net worth of more than $40 billion, is one of the wealthiest of Americans, his fortune in part stemming from the widespread use of what many in high finance and media circles know as the "Bloomberg machine," a vast and costly collection of financial data about companies and economies from across the globe.
According to U.S. news accounts, Bloomberg has told associates he would be willing to spend $1 billion of his own fortune on a campaign, but is giving himself until early March to decide whether to run, after the first Democratic and Republican party presidential nominating contests are held in the coming weeks.
Bloomberg's associates say he is particularly concerned about the domination of the Republican contest by another billionaire, flamboyant New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, someone Bloomberg has known for two decades, and also is worried about the outcome of the Democratic race.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the leading Democratic contender, according to national surveys. But the polling shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who calls himself an independent socialist Democrat, has edged ahead of her in the first two states set to vote next month, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bloomberg, once a Republican who later declared himself an independent, also floated the possibility of a presidential candidacy in 2008, but won little support and abandoned the effort.