Josh Isay of The Stagwell Group’s SKDKnickerbocker

Josh Isay of The Stagwell Group’s SKDKnickerbocker

Josh Isay, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker is about to get much busier since his firm has just been acquired by Mark Penn’s Stagwell Group.


He’s someone who generally prefers staying more in the background – but not completely, having said in a recent interview, “I think there’s something between glad-handing and J.D. Salinger, and I’m probably somewhere in between.” He can do the interview circuit with the best of them, but prefers fewer interviews for himself and more for the people he represents.

He’s worked as a media and communications consultant for some of the most high-profile elected officials, and the nation’s largest companies. The New York Observer said that Josh “is widely considered the most effective media consultant in town.” He was on President Obama’s direct mail team and worked in similar ways from many senators, mayors, governors, and members of Congress.

He’s a New Yorker through and through. And he’s been deeply involved in the City’s politics for at least 20 years. He’s been involved in various education initiatives, budget and other matters, but is probably best known for his work with specific politicians. He’s worked for Michael Bloomberg, Bruce Ratner, Chuck Schumer, Scott Stringer, Joe Lieberman, Caroline Kennedy, Charlie Crist, Christine Quinn, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the New York Stock Exchange.

He started in political consulting in the 1998 campaign for Chuck Schumer and then continued working for him in the U.S. Senate as his first chief of staff. After another gig or two working for other people, he became one of the original founders of SKDKnickerbocker in 2004. He’s represented national and state labor unions.

Josh worked tirelessly on the primary push for Christine Quinn in her 2013 bid for the New York Mayor’s office. Had Ms. Quinn won, she would have been the first female NY Mayor, and also the first openly gay NY Mayor.  Josh talked in interviews about her campaign being something of an homage to his father who was a prominent Psychoanalyst in the City.

His father also took decades to come out to family and friends about his sexual orientation.  And then only after he had met the man who he fell in love with, the two had a 30-year relationship. His father worked hard to get the gay marriage act passed in New York and shortly after doing so was married to his long-time companion in Josh’s home where Josh’s son Benji acted as best man. His father passed about a year after the wedding.

Josh is married to Cathie (nee Levine), who he first met while they were both working on the Schumer campaign. The couple has two children.

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