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Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Declan Kelly is out as CEO of corporate advisory firm Teneo, more than a month after being accused of drunkenly groping women at a charity event.

Why it matters: Kelly, a former Clinton aide and noted philanthropist, has turned Teneo into one of the most influential corporate PR players, with its clients often appearing in this space. It's also been on an acquisition spree since being acquired by CVC Capital Partners, whose lead partner on the deal is also chair of the nonprofit whose event Kelly desecrated.

Plus: Kelly's abhorrent behavior likely would have been covered up, if not for reporting by the Financial Times.

Timeline: The fundraiser took place on May 2 for group called Global Citizen, with Kelly's alleged actions occurring during a cocktail party that preceded a concert.

  • On May 3, Kelly stepped down from the board of Global Citizen (chaired by CVC's Chris Stadler), which opened an investigation.
  • Also on May 3, sources say that Kelly informed Teneo's senior leadership that he was stepping back from some of his day-to-day responsibilities "due to a health issue." The firm's 1,200-person workforce was not told about the change, nor was it publicly announced.
  • Sources say that within a few days, Teneo hired outside counsel to launch an independent investigation and, although it's unclear if that effort has concluded. It also cooperated with the Global Citizen investigation.
  • The whole thing was blown open by the FT on June 24, with Kelly officially resigning yesterday (June 29). It is unclear when exit negotiations began, although they'd certainly have been complicated given Kelly's large ownership stake in Teneo.

CVC Capital Partners declined comment, but the firm has been indirectly deemphasizing Kelly for several years, via acquisitions of businesses outside of Kelly's core competency (e.g., Deloitte's restructuring practice and D.C. advisory firm WestExec).

  • "Probably around 40% of our revenue was tied to Declan when CVC first invested, but now it's probably only around 10%," says an insider.
  • Or maybe a bit less, since General Motors yesterday dropped Teneo due to the Kelly scandal.

The bottom line: Teneo, for all of its PR expertise, botched this. Yes, it was in a tough spot because its high-profile CEO behaved badly. But it also let the media set the narrative, which is exactly what you don't want to do in such situations.

  • Now, don't be surprised if rivals begin calling CVC about a takeover, smelling blood in the water.

Go deeper

Sep 28, 2021 - Podcasts

Electric vehicles front and center

Ford Motor Company is making a big bet on electric vehicles in Kentucky and Tennessee through a new assembly plant and new battery factories. This comes as debate continues over President Biden's ambitious spending plan, which could transform the transportation sector when it comes to electric cars.

  • Plus, why it took decades to convict R. Kelly.
  • And, the debt ceiling, explained.

Guests: Axios' Joann Muller and Alayna Treene; Jim DeRogatis, journalist and author of Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly; Koa Beck, journalist and author of White Feminism.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, and Michael Hanf. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Scoop: Garland defends DOJ's handling of Jan. 6 probe

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland will tell the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that federal prosecutors "are doing exactly what they are expected to do" in seeking accountability for the "intolerable assault" on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Allies of former President Trump, including Republican congressmen, have criticized the department's treatment rioters charged with crimes, and sought to recast the insurrection as a righteous protest. Garland's testimony with be his first appearance before the panel.

Updated 50 mins ago - World

Police charge man with murder of British MP David Amess

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Police said Thursday that Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man, has been charged with the murder of David Amess, a Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K.

The big picture: Last week, the Metropolitan Police declared the fatal stabbing a terrorist incident, saying that they had found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."