Tom Brady shocked America when he came out of retirement in March, just 40 days after threatening to trump the Super Bowl by announcing the end of his glittering American football career.
I realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” he said on Twitter. The line could well have been co-opted by his new partner, Irishman and former Teneo boss Declan Kelly.
He too has quietly performed an even more impressive resurrection after allegations forced his departure from Teneo.
When news broke last week that Kelly Brady — known to American football fans as “The Greatest of All Time” — had bagged Consello for his new Madison Avenue company, there was shock and admiration across the public relations industry.
“Declan was always the guy with the speed dial that auto-answered,” said a well-informed source. “But maybe that’s gotten more difficult in the last few months. But I don’t care who you are, the name Tom Brady is a pretty powerful name to come back with.
“The fact that someone like Brady – who is known to be smart – would take issue with Kelly given where he was just 10 months ago says something about a whole host of other stakeholders.”
Another confused source agreed: “I can certainly see what’s in it for Declan Kelly, but what’s in it for Tom Brady? That’s harder to say.”
And Brady is just one of Kelly’s big signings. Other partners include Uber co-founder Oscar Salazar and Steve Mollenkopf, former CEO of Qualcomm. Kelly’s new Madison Avenue address shares a block with Trump Tower and the iconic Tiffany & Co.
“When I heard he got Brady, my first reaction was, ‘Damn it, he did it again!'” said a former colleague. “And he did it in just 10 months.
“To be honest, Tom Brady isn’t even number one there. If there really was a problem with Declan, these people wouldn’t be involved. They are the kind of people who do their due diligence.”
Another old colleague agreed: “This is a classic playbook for Declan Kelly. It definitely announces that he’s back.”
Nothing seemed impossible for Kelly, the source said, “We would come out of meetings laughing and thinking, ‘Wow, are we really going to do this?’ because he would promise the world. It would worry me at times, but he would find a way to deliver.
For Kelly, 2021 had been a personal and professional disaster. He has a track record of success in a grueling sector, from Financial Dynamics to FTI Consulting, advising Hillary Clinton to building Teneo into a global consulting giant.
But in late June, his high-profile career came to an abrupt end when the financial times reported allegations of drunk misconduct at a benefit concert six weeks earlier. A spokesman for Kelly was quoted as saying he “got drunk and behaved inappropriately towards some of the women and men at the event.”
Kelly resigned, saying he was “committed to sobriety” and “doing ongoing counseling.” More than one source referred to the Tipperary man as “Marmite”. But everyone said the allegations seemed out of character.
“I suspect he lit the candle from both ends,” said an industry insider. “I would have said over the years he was energetic, full of bravery, driven, terribly unreasonable at times, greedy, gregarious… all those things. But never anything like what was suggested.”
But Kelly’s ruthless style in business burned many bridges: “If you were looking for a short list of people who might be motivated to leak something, the list wouldn’t be that short.”
When he left Teneo, Kelly himself claimed there was “a campaign against them
reputation of our company.
“Obviously he was taken down,” says a former colleague. “You get drunk in LA and six weeks later it’s in LA financial times in London. This doesn’t happen by accident. You can’t build a massive 10-year business without breaking a few eggs on the way up. He is enormously driven. You’re either on the boat with him or away from him. And some people honestly can’t handle it.”
But others in the industry, less convinced of his charms, expressed surprise that he’d resurfaced so quickly.
“He’s going to want to reposition his legacy,” an insider said. “He’s resilient and terribly proud. For Declan, it’s the ego that counts. He was hit by the allegations at their peak. That’s not how Declan Kelly wants to be remembered. And in your industry, there’s a relatively narrow window in which you lose your relevance and are seen as yesterday’s man.
“He could have retired 10 times with the money he made, but I see why that makes sense to him. He has the skills and the contacts to make it work. But given the nature of the allegations, there will be brands that won’t hit him with a punt.”
But Kelly has long used big name signings — not least from the sports world — as a door opener to the broader business. In 2016 he hired Brian O’Driscoll as Senior Advisor at Teneo. He has worked with golfers Graham McDowell and Pádraig Harrington and tennis legend Billie Jean King.
“Teneo, and before that FTI, were Big Four-type companies — the upper echelons,” said another former colleague. “I don’t see that as possible this time. But I imagine he went to Brady with a business plan and said, “See you here in the next three to five years.”
“He will have convinced him of the value of this and I can almost hear him telling the story,” he said. “There’s always a level of breathlessness and compulsion for Declan in scenarios like this: ‘You gotta move, you gotta act, you only have 12 months, here’s what you gotta do’.”
He will likely have offered Brady very attractive terms, perhaps “no foal – no fee,” the source said.
“If Declan got 15 minutes in a room with Brady, then there was a very good chance Brady would come on board. He can be incredibly persuasive and I would imagine he promised him the sun, moon and stars and he’s probably quite capable of that
to address it.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/world/brady-gives-scandal-hit-declan-kelly-the-hail-mary-he-needed-41533596.html Brady gives scandal-hit Declan Kelly the Hail Mary he needed