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Inside Declan Kelly’s comeback after Teneo downfall

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Disgraced CEO whisperer Declan Kelly — who has pegged his return from exile on the horns of the GOAT — has a steep hill to climb to totally rehabilitate his image after his spectacular downfall as boss of public relations giant Teneo, people near the PR whiz told The Post.

The previous Clinton fixer and adviser to Fortune 500 titans resigned as Teneo’s CEO over sexual misconduct last 12 months.

He had gotten drunk at a VIP fund-raiser thrown by anti-poverty charity Global Citizen in Los Angeles on May 2, 2021, and, in keeping with sources, inappropriately touched as many as six employees on the star-filled gala.

Kelly, 54, acknowledged the incident as an “inadvertent, public and embarrassing mistake” and added he “apologized to those directly affected, in addition to [to] my colleagues and clients” but he still left the firm he founded in 2011.

He returned to his native Ireland for just a few months and hung out with family, a source with knowledge told The Post.

“He fled the country, he was so embarrassed concerning the Teneo ouster,” the source added.

Tom Brady is a partner at Consello Group.Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

By July, he arrange his next enterprise, The Consello Group, in keeping with public filings. He has since returned to the US and last month made a splash with the announcement that seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, the NFL’s Biggest Of All Time, will join his nascent consulting firm as a partner.

Bringing in Brady

Individuals who know Kelly say they aren’t surprised he would goal someone with major star power like Brady to steer his comeback, given Kelly’s playbook is to recruit eye-popping names to his firm.

In response to a source, Kelly emphasized his recent business would give attention to crypto — one among Brady’s major interests. Brady and supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen own a stake in crypto trading behemoth FTX; Brady also began NFT platform Autograph.

“Kelly is the perfect at determining what people wish to hear and exploiting it. He can lure anyone in,” a source who used to work with Kelly told The Post.

A spokesperson for Brady declined comment.

bill and hilary clintonKelly peddled access to the Clintons in an effort to usher in lucrative clients.Bloomberg via Getty Images

Embittered ex-employees

Despite the addition of Brady, Kelly’s former employees warn his behavior when he first began Teneo may come back to haunt him.

“Within the early days of Teneo, he encouraged certain employees to call him daddy,” one former staffer told The Post.

“He rules by fear,” one other former worker said. This source adds Kelly told drivers not to talk to him.

Kelly would also try to project a persona of somebody who had pulled himself up from his own bootstraps — and relied on anecdotes he believed employees would find compelling, sources said. 

“In any respect staff presentations, he would use a black-and-white stock images of a pair in front of a burned down house and say they were an image of his parents,” a source said.  

One other source noted he would discuss his impoverished parents and share odd details — he claimed his parents used an outhouse and that his father couldn’t read until he was 40.

“I spoke with individuals who knew Declan in Ireland they usually all knew him to be solidly middle class,” one other source adds. “But Declan didn’t let truth get in the best way.”

Kelly refused requests for comment from The Post.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were on the event that led to Kelly’s ouster.AFP via Getty Images

Money Moves

Kelly, who had deep political ties and was capable of nab Bill Clinton and former Prime Minister Tony Blair for his Teneo board, previously peddled access to necessary political figures as a part of the rationale he could charge top dollar for his services. He was even appointed Special Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland by Hillary Clinton in 2009.

The explanation he’s having to bring on athletes, the previous employees added, is because he’s alienated a lot of his longtime political allies.

“He pissed the Clintons off,” a former Kelly confidante said. “They felt used and haven’t spoken in years.”

Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton responded to a request for comment.

His connections allowed him to charge unheard of fees within the industry.

Dow Chemical doled out thousands and thousands, including a multi-million success fee one 12 months when company CEO Andrew Liveris got three front page covers within the Wall Street Journal.

“One 12 months, Declan put Andrew with Obama 13 times on stage… that’s the way you get those big fees,” a source said.

One PR industry expert told The Post: “Clients paid for pixie dust. I can see how Dow would value Bill Clinton getting [Liveris] a gathering but Tom Brady can’t do this,”

What’s shocking industry insiders — even perhaps greater than a superstar quarterback coming on board — is that Kelly hasn’t been sued by private equity firm CVC that bought his stake when he was dumped by Teneo.

When he left, Kelly signed a non-compete clause that prohibited him from opening a firm too just like Teneo, sources told The Post.

Some sources note Kelly is cozy with CVC management. These sources suggest Kelly should still have a stake in Teneo and will still be moving puppet strings behind the scenes.

“He was very strategic about constructing relationships with CEOs and people CEOs will only work with him and never Teneo,” a source said.

70 vestryTom Brady and Declan Kelly each hung out at 70 Vestry — a fancy Tribeca condo.Google Maps

CVC is privately owned and doesn’t disclose financials and wouldn’t comment on whether Kelly still retains a stake in Teneo. People near CVC told The Post that Teneo’s valuation was roughly $700 million.

While it’s unclear just why CVC has up to now chosen to not pursue legal motion against Kelly’s recent firm, some sources told The Post it could possibly be a sign CVC and Kelly want to affix forces down the road.

CVC declined to comment.

Kelly has also added a few of his top clients at Teneo to bolster the Consello team. Steve Mollenkopf, former chief executive officer at Qualcomm — an organization that worked extensively with Teneo — is a partner on the firm, in keeping with the corporate’s site.

Kelly Kramer, former chief financial officer at Cisco — one other longtime Kelly client — is a senior advisor.

His old firm still maintains a powerhouse roster, including General Electric and Coca Cola, but the corporate is struggling after Kelly’s departure given most top dogs had a relationship with him and never the firm, sources add.

Some people near the corporate even speculate the consulting firm may not find a way to survive for much longer. Ursula Burns — the longtime Xerox CEO who took the helm after Kelly left — is “checked out,” insiders say, and more focused on an upcoming move than bringing in additional clients.

“She did a town hall meeting with staff who’re concerned about departures of clients and fellow employees,” a source told The Post. “As an alternative of addressing the problems at hand she talked about her move to Florida and inability to get furniture attributable to supply chain,” one source griped.

A source conversant in Teneo’s inner workings rejected those claims.

“Ursula doesn’t do anything lower than 100%. She’s been very lively working with Teneo clients and employees.”

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