His troubles, some long hidden, surfaced in the summer of 2016. The Podesta Group lost its banker over news the firm did work for the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian bank under sanctions. Then came headlines that the firm’s work with Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, and an associate may have violated government rules. And in October, WikiLeaks published 20,000 pages of emails stolen from his brother John Podesta, chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The string of embarrassing news accounts disturbed many of the Podesta Group’s corporate clients, companies that preferred to stay clear of such publicity. Mr. Podesta operated as if the whole mess would soon blow over.
He spent most of the fall traveling the world. He returned to the U.S. on Election Day but skipped Mrs. Clinton’s campaign party. Her victory would go a long way to fixing many of his problems. She lost that night, and Mr. Podesta, like many who had banked on her victory, did too.
Clients who had hired him for access to a new Clinton administration fell away. By the end of the year, the departures cost the firm more than $10 million in annual business, according to an internal Podesta Group accounting viewed by The Wall Street Journal.