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

Updated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 34,018,143 — Total deaths: 1,014,995 — Total recoveries: 23,674,533Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 7,234,327 — Total deaths: 206,963 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Health: New poll shows alarming coronavirus vaccine skepticism — New research centers will study "long-haul" COVID — Coronavirus infections rise in 25 states.
  4. Business: Remdesivir is good business for Gilead.
  5. Retail: The holiday shopping season will now begin in October.
  6. 🎧Podcast: The looming second wave of airline layoffs.
Kendall Baker, author of Sports
34 mins ago - Sports

Barstool jumps into sports betting

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Barstool Sports was founded in 2003 as a free gambling newspaper. It later became a sports blog before growing into a media empire, and now things have come full circle with the recent launch of its own branded sportsbook.

Driving the news: The Barstool Sportsbook app saw a record 21,000 downloads per day during its first weekend (Sept. 18–20), breaking DraftKings' and Fanduel's daily records despite Pennsylvania being the only state where it was operational.

Former Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal endorses Joe Biden

Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president on MSNBC Thursday.

Why it matters: McChrystal came under fire in 2010 during the Obama administration after a Rolling Stone article quoted him as mocking some top civilian officials — including Biden. The general apologized to Biden but was ultimately pushed to resign.