Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S. February 12, 2020.
Doug Strickland | Reuters
Billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s tech company has a new CEO as it restructures for the general election against President Donald Trump.
The move also comes as the firm, Hawkfish, had been struggling to score new client contracts.
The company confirmed that its CEO is Josh Mendelsohn, a managing partner at Hangar, a start-up investment firm based out of New York. Mendelsohn, according to a Hawkfish spokesperson, has been involved with the Bloomberg-backed business since the early days of the company’s creation in 2019.
That includes working with the tech firm when it was the primary digital agency for Bloomberg’s run for president that led to him capturing 55 delegates, including the Democratic caucuses of American Samoa.
Gary Briggs, the company’s chairman and former chief marketing officer at Facebook, said the restructuring, which included the recent termination of employees who were on monthly contracts, is part of an effort to gear up for the battle with Trump. It’s unclear how Hawkfish plans to take on the president, as it has yet to sign with Joe Biden’s campaign for president.
“Hawkfish continues to focus on how we can collaboratively help defeat Donald Trump and Republicans in 2020 and beyond. The staff needs of a focused political firm are different from a campaign team,” Briggs told CNBC. “Hawkfish has revised our organizational structure and reduced a piece of our contingent workforce to get back to our original, specific goal: building great data and ad technology to help Democrats win up and down the ballot.”
Beyond Mendelsohn, Hawkfish told CNBC that it has recently added at least four others to its leadership team, such as Kate Kochman, a former White House official under President Barack Obama, to head its political team, and Mitch Stewart as a senior consultant. Stewart is co-founder of 270 Strategies, a digital firm that he and Jeremy Bird started after working for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 runs for president.
Hawkfish was a key vendor that was used by the Bloomberg campaign to help craft mainly anti-Trump digital ads.
Prior to Bloomberg’s brief run for the White House, the data and tech firm was created to help Democrats overtake Republicans in a digital space the GOP had been dominating in since the president’s 2016 campaign.
However, since Bloomberg, who has a net worth of just more than $60 billion, dropped out of the Democratic primary in March, the company has been searching for its next round of clients. Bloomberg invested close to $1 billion of his own money into the entirely self-funded campaign. Of that total, the campaign paid Hawkfish more than $66 million for its services.
Voto Latino, a nonprofit that focuses heavily on digital engagement to encourage young Latino voter participation, recently held virtual talks with Hawkfish. The sides are discussing a short-term, five-figure test investment that would allow Hawkfish to fight for a chance to work with the group for a longer period of time. As of early this week, Voto Latino had yet to come to an agreement with the Bloomberg-linked tech company.
Outside of that group, the company has yet to find many political clients that are willing to bring them on board as the coronavirus pandemic has tightened budgets. Many campaigns and outside groups have come off the campaign trail to go fully virtual, leaving political efforts reeling for cash.
Bloomberg himself is plotting a spending blitz to back Biden. He and his team are discussing whether his investment will include a major donation to a pro-Biden super PAC, the Biden-Democratic National Committee joint fundraising effort, or another group.