The digital agency, founded by Mike Bloomberg, recently shook and fired its leadership team in preparation for the general election, Recode has learned. The Bloomberg team says this has been going on for a long time, but the restructuring will nevertheless be closely monitored as it comes through a Bloomberg lobbying effort to lead the digital operation of suspected Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Hawkfish, the operation created by the billionaire last year before becoming president, confirmed to Recode that it had elected a new CEO, Josh Mendelsohn, as its new head. It also confirmed that the 100-person company last Friday informed more than two dozen employees, mainly about the production and creative team, that their contracts would not be renewed by the end of the month.
“The staffing needs of a focused political company are different from a campaign team,” the company told Recode in a statement. “Hawkfish has revised our organizational structure and reduced some of our temporary workforce to return to our original, specific goal: to build great data and advertising technology to help Democrats up and down.”
The movements will be scrutinized as Hawkfish is identified as one of the key potential solutions to the struggling digital operation of the Biden campaign, which is gaining importance with the shift to external campaigns in the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden campaign has debated whether Hawkfish should be called in to conduct its digital operation, a decision made very controversial in democratic politics as it would give so much control to an outsider and one of the party’s biggest donors.
A senior advisor to Hawkfish said the moves were not related to a Biden deal, but were part of a broader shift to a digital operation, which managed everything from Bloomberg’s IT to creative ad production during the campaign. As an advertising technology company, the agency will assume a more limited focus.
The changes position Mendelsohn as the new face of the organization when bidding on the Biden contract. The organization’s top leaders in the past, at least externally, were a pair of old Silicon Valley hands: former Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck and former Facebook chief marketing officer Gary Briggs. Briggs remains chairman of Hawkfish and Glueck becomes the digital director.
The recent restructuring at Hawkfish also reflects this refocused operation. None of the layoffs affected full-time employees, a senior adviser said, but only those with monthly contracts. Bloomberg himself has been harshly criticized and even sued by some former campaign workers who feel that they have failed to deliver on their job security and benefits promises during a pandemic.