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The CEO of IMGE, one of the largest center-right digital public affairs firms in Washington, purchased the company from Media Group of America (MGA) this past Friday, Axios has learned.

MGA, which also houses Independent Journal Review, was co-founded by Alex Skatell and Phil Musser in 2013. Ties to IJR had previously weighed on IMGE's business goals of remaining independent of editorial, like not being able to take on a presidential candidate in 2016. On the flip side, perception problems for potential editorial conflicts existed at IJR, so MGA agreed to make a clean break.

"As the companies have matured, Alex and I recognized this split allows both companies to fully and independently pursue all the opportunities ahead." said Phil Musser, CEO of IMGE.

It's a big deal because IMGE has become a big presence in the Republican media agency space with clients like Boeing and the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as the newly-created Great America PAC chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Becoming totally independent of Independent Journal Review will let it avoid entanglements with an editorial partner.

  • IMGE has also hired Bryan Sanders, husband of new White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to lead a newly-created research and insights division, IMGE Insights, that will focus on sophisticated on-line polling and large-scale research. Bryan has served as a strategist for some of the most unexpected Republican victories in the country over the last decade and was named a "Rising Star in American Politics" by Campaigns and Elections magazine.
  • On top of that, they've recently added several big strategic partners, like Liesl Hickey, who used to run the NRCC, and longtime political operative Phil Cox, who runs the bipartisan public affairs firm 50 State, and who is taking an expanded role at IMGE as a senior advisor.

Go deeper

Poll: U.S. leadership approval rebounds from Trump low

A Gallup report published Tuesday found approval of United States leadership in 46 countries and territories hit 49% — up from 30% at the end of Donald Trump's presidency, and matching former President Obama's first year (2009).

Why it matters: Biden's efforts to reengage with the international community following the Trump administration appear to be improving the global approval ratings for U.S. leadership, though this poll does not take into account the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.

"No-code" miracle for startups

Expand chart
Data: Interactive Advertising Bureau; Table: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data, according to a new report.

Why it matters: This shift towards a data and information-based economy has allowed more businesses to establish themselves and scale quickly and at a very low cost. As such, the number of jobs created by the commercial internet has more than tripled since 2012.

Amazon's small business shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is touting the success of small sellers on its platform through the pandemic — and warning that antitrust legislation could jeopardize that success and blow up its open-marketplace model.

Why it matters: As online shopping became a lifeline for both businesses and consumers during the pandemic, Amazon reaped big benefits, but also saw its regulatory risk grow.