Declan Kelly, former Obama official and Clinton aide, quits as Teneo CEO after drunken conduct at charity party

Key Points
  • Declan Kelly, CEO of major public relations firm Teneo, quit after fallout from his drunken behavior at a party last month.
  • Kelly previously served as a special envoy to Northern Ireland for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Obama administration.
  • Kelly's embarrassing departure came days after General Motors severed ties with Teneo because of his conduct.
Teneo CEO Declan Kelly speaks onstage during Global Citizen Presents Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream at St. Ann’s Warehouse on September 26, 2019 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

The CEO of leading public relations and advisory firm Teneo, who previously served as a special envoy to Northern Ireland under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, resigned Tuesday after fallout from his drunken behavior at a high-powered charity event last month.

Declan Kelly's embarrassing departure came days after General Motors severed ties with Teneo because of his conduct, and weeks after he resigned from the board of directors of the nonprofit group Global Citizen, the host of the May 2 event in question.

General Motors had been a client of Teneo, a 1,200-person firm that was co-founded by Doug Band, a former aide to ex-President Bill Clinton.

In addition to doing work for GM, which reportedly was paying Teneo a $250,000-per month retainer, Kelly also has served as an advisor to General Electric and Coca-Cola.

Kelly, who also been Teneo's chairman, is brother of Alan Kelly, leader of the Labour Party in Ireland.

Declan Kelly, who previously worked as a reporter for several newspapers in Ireland, served as a special economic envoy from 2009 through 2011 for Hillary Clinton when she headed the State Department under former President Barack Obama. Kelly additionally had served as an advisor to Clinton during her 2008 campaign for president.

The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that Kelly's representative said that the PR executive had been "inebriated and behaved inappropriately towards some women and men" at the Global Citizen event.

President Joe Biden had made a video appearance at the event, whose chairpersons were Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle. Pope Francis also delivered a message to the gathering.

"Since the event two months ago Mr. Kelly immediately committed to sobriety, is undertaking ongoing counselling from healthcare professionals, and has temporarily reduced his work responsibilities," the statement from his representative said, according to the Journal.

"He has the full support of his family, colleagues, partners and friends."

This was not Kelly's first embarrassing public episode.

Kelly previously was seen on social media video sleeping with his mouth open in the stands of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami during the first quarter of the Super Bowl in February 2020.

That viral video came eight months after Teneo sold a slight majority stake in the firm to CVC Capital Partners in a deal that valued Teneo at more than $700 million.

In his own statement on Teneo's website posted Tuesday Kelly said, "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."

"A campaign against the reputation of our firm has followed and may even continue in the coming days," Kelly said. "However, regardless of the veracity of any such matters I do not want them to be an ongoing distraction to the running of our company."

"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 CEO," Kelly said.

Teneo's board of directors appointed another company co-founder, Chief Operating Officer Paul Keary, to succeed Kelly as chief executive officer.

"We want to thank Declan for his leadership and dedication over the past ten years in building Teneo into the world's preeminent CEO advisory firm," the company said in a statement.

"Thanks to Declan's leadership, and the efforts of its excellent management team, Teneo today serves the world's leading companies with a deep bench of experienced advisors across a number of disciplines."