December 4, 2021

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Mike Bloomberg digital agency Hawkfish floundering as Biden ices them out

Is Hawkfish imploding?

Depends on who you speak to, but the one-time high-flying digital ad, data and campaign consulting group created by Mike Bloomberg to help his own presidential bid and aid other progressive candidates is clearly in trouble. As FOX Business first reported Thursday morning, the company is now slashing staff, changing management and struggling to find new business.

People who work at the company tell FOX Business they believe the future of Hawkfish LLC is likely to include more layoffs and less business given how the coronavirus pandemic has upended the 2020 elections and presidential campaign. Some political advisers say multibillionaire Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, data and financial news entrepreneur and most recently failed Democratic presidential candidate, may be holding his powder dry before unleashing the company to defeat President Trump in November.

One thing is certain: Hawkfish has seen better days. As FOX Business first reported, last week Hawkfish laid off roughly a fifth of its more than 100 employees. And while the three top tech executives who run Hawkfish — former Facebook Chief Marketing Officer Gary Briggs, former Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck, and former WPP Group CEO of North America Tim Castree — remain with the firm for now, insiders believe they could soon be pushed out. These insiders point to the recent hiring of a new CEO: Venture investor and Google alum Josh Mendelsohn, as a sign the firm is looking to oust its old management team.

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Hawkfish, of course, suffered a setback when Bloomberg in early March pulled the plug on his presidential campaign after spending around $100 billion and failing to win a single state in the Democratic primaries. Bloomberg insiders said at the time Hawkfish and its staff were supposed to move seamlessly over to the campaign of former vice president Joe Biden, who will be the party’s nominee.

The plan was for Biden to use Hawkfish’s state-of-the-art technology and data analytics to take on Trump and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, a social media savant credited with helping Trump achieve his surprise victory in the 2020 election.

But as the spread of the coronavirus sparked widespread lockdowns and quarantines across the country, the 2020 presidential race has been drastically scaled back. Now some Bloomberg insiders doubt Biden will actually hire Hawkfish for his campaign, a move that could prompt further layoffs and management upheaval at the digital ad company that is separate from Bloomberg’s eponymous news and financial information outfit, Bloomberg LP, people with direct knowledge of the matter say.

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It’s unclear why Biden has so far given Hawkfish the cold shoulder. One possibility is the Biden campaign may be short on cash given the problems with raising money during the coronavirus pandemic, people close to Bloomberg tell FOX Business.

Hawkfish would not comment on the layoffs and management strife when contacted by FOX Business early Thursday.  In fact, Amy Taub, head of digital strategy, creative production and operations, abruptly hung up the phone when a FOX Business reporter called her early in the day for a comment. Calls and texts to Briggs and Glueck were not returned. Press officials for Biden’s campaign did not respond to request for comment either.

Just a few months ago, the future certainly seemed bright for Hawkfish to play a major role in the presidential campaign by providing “digital ad services, including content creation, ad placement and analytics,” according to a Bloomberg spokeswoman.

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But in recent weeks, management and obvious budget problems have emerged. As of now, there is no firm plan to work with any 2020 campaign, leaving a significant hole in Hawkfish’s budget. One Hawkfish insider tells FOX Business there is “lots of confusion” and uncertainty about the future amid the drought in new business. This person said morale among employees is low because so much of Hawkfish’s business has dried up, and employees don’t have much to do.

Hawkfish also appears to be moving away from politics and has shifted its attention to Bloomberg’s philanthropic efforts in responding to coronavirus—supporting those efforts by creating content for and posting to social media, people with knowledge of the matter say.

But some Democratic insiders say it’s too soon to count Hawkfish out; Bloomberg, they say, is known to focus on the long game and may be simply waiting to use the group in a way to at the very least help Democrats keep and win House and Senate seats in 2020.

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Other Democratic insiders speculate Bloomberg may launch a Super PAC to put Hawkfish to work—aiding both Biden and down-ballot races.

“Bloomberg always breaks late, makes a significant impact,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “This election is still very early; six months is centuries in politics.”

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