Group run by longtime Clinton ally acquires top Democratic PR firm

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Story highlights

  • Mark Penn, a veteran Democratic pollster who has served on both Bill and Hillary Clinton's respective presidential campaigns, has reached a deal to acquire SKDKnickerbocker
  • The acquisition will bring the pre-eminent communications firm under the umbrella of a Clinton loyalist

(CNN)The nation's leading Democratic PR firm will soon be owned by a private equity group run by a longtime Clinton insider.

Mark Penn, a veteran Democratic pollster who has served on both Bill and Hillary Clinton's respective presidential campaigns, has reached a deal to acquire SKDKnickerbocker through his private equity firm Stagwell Group, SKDK sources said Thursday.
The acquisition, first reported by The New York Times, will bring the pre-eminent communications firm under the umbrella of a Clinton loyalist right as the Democratic presidential primary begins in earnest, though one SKDK source told CNN that while Penn's fund is buying the company, "Penn won't be involved in our business."
    The acquisition has been in the works for some time, sources with knowledge of the situation said. Penn, who launched the Stagwell Group over the summer, previously served with SKDK managing director Bill Knapp during Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign.
    SKDKnickerbocker was founded in 2004 and employs many of the nation's top Democratic strategists, including former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and CNN political commentator and former Recording Industry Association of America Chairman Hilary Rosen. It counts many top Democratic politicians and progressive causes among its portfolio.
    Penn joined Bill Clinton in 1994 after working as an adviser to Microsoft. He served as a top pollster and strategist on Clinton's 1996 campaign and went on to serve on Hillary Clinton's 2000 and 2006 Senate campaigns, as well as her 2008 presidential campaign. Penn rejoined Microsoft in 2012 and served there until earlier this year.
    Penn's Stagwell Group formally launched in September with a $250 million contribution from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The group invests in "advertising, research, data analytics, public relations, and digital marketing services," according to its official profile.