Declan Kelly Resigns as C.E.O. of Teneo, an Influential Advisory Firm

Declan Kelly, who “behaved inappropriately” at a charity event last month, will quit the firm he helped found, effective immediately.

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The chief executive of Teneo, an influential advisory firm, steps down.

Declan Kelly, the chief executive of Teneo, is stepping down from the company.Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Global Citizen Vax Live

June 29, 2021, 8:40 a.m. ET

Declan Kelly, the chief executive of Teneo, the go-to advisory and communications firm for many of the world’s largest companies, said on Tuesday that he would step down. The firm, which specializes in crisis communications, has been dealing with its own turmoil after reports of Mr. Kelly’s drunken misconduct at a charity event last month.

The firm’s chief operating officer, Paul Keary, was appointed as Mr. Kelly’s replacement, effective immediately, Teneo’s board said in a statement on Tuesday.

The news comes after reports surfaced that Mr. Kelly was asked to leave the board of the nonprofit organization Global Citizen after his misconduct at a public event hosted by the charity on May 2. Mr. Kelly was “inebriated and behaved inappropriately towards some women and men,” according to a statement from Mr. Kelly’s representative, provided to The New York Times before his resignation.

Shortly after that May event, Mr. Kelly told the firm’s roughly 40-member senior leadership team that he would cut back on some of his duties to deal with an unspecified health issue. But most of the rest of Teneo’s employees, as well as the firm’s clients, found out about the incident weeks later from news reports. Mr. Kelly had originally planned on resuming his normal duties after Labor Day.

“I’ve seen a number of crisis communications challenges over the course of my career — this one is especially challenging because the firm and Mr. Kelly are in the business,” said Tony D’Angelo, a professor of Public Relations at Syracuse University. “This is like a celebrity chef who burns dinner on a global broadcast.”

The fallout has been swift. Last week, General Motors severed ties with the firm.

“On May 2nd I made an inadvertent, public and embarrassing mistake for which I took full responsibility and apologized to those directly affected, as well as my colleagues and clients,” Mr. Kelly said in a statement. “In order to protect the employees of Teneo and its clients, and with my family’s strong support, I have decided to leave the company and resign as Chairman and C.E.O.”

Teneo was founded by Mr. Kelly, Mr. Keary and Doug Band in 2011 and has 1,250 employees. It gives advice to some of the country’s largest companies, like Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and I.B.M. Its prominent advisers include former Speaker Paul Ryan and the former Xerox chief executive Ursula Burns.

Mr. Kelly’s resignation is the second prominent departure from the firm in the last two years. Mr. Band, a former close adviser to President Bill Clinton, stepped down as president of the firm last year.

Teneo’s board said in its statement that it “believes strongly in Teneo’s unique C.E.O. advisory model, global reach and ability to deliver differentiated value to our clients.”

“We are confident that under Paul, and the leadership team, Teneo will continue on its successful path of growth, delivering unique value to clients across its diverse business segments,” the board said.

CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, acquired a majority stake in Teneo two years ago, valuing it at about $700 million. A managing partner of CVC, Chris Stadler, is on the board of Global Citizen, which hosted the event at which Mr. Kelly acted inappropriately. CVC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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