Vice President Kamala Harris’ former national campaign finance chair is opening a strategic advisory firm that will aim, in part, to guide corporations and C-suite executives through handling social justice and politically charged issues.
Jon Henes, a longtime corporate restructuring attorney at the prominent law firm Kirkland & Ellis, plans to launch his new New York-based firm around Labor Day, according to people briefed on the matter.
The firm is planning to hire at least 15 people at first, and it could expand operations to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco, a person said.
The advisory firm will have a multipronged approach, including a corporate strategic advisory arm that would do the traditional counseling on hiring practices such as union inclusion. It will also have a team that will focus on environmental, social and corporate governance, and workplace diversity, equity and inclusion, these people said.
The people cited in this story declined to be named because details for the new venture have yet to be finalized.
A Kirkland & Ellis press release announcing Henes’ departure noted he was on his way to starting a strategic advisory firm but provided no further details.
“Over the past few years, in addition to my work at Kirkland, I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of politics and policy, opening my eyes to the critical business need for helping CEOs navigate the convergence of business, finance and law with social justice, diversity, inclusion and politics,” Henes said in the release. “It is bittersweet to leave my Kirkland colleagues, many of whom I think of as family, but I’m excited to embark on this new chapter of my career.”
He did not return CNBC’s follow up requests for comment.
The firm’s launch comes as corporations experience pushback from consumers and employees over their stances on voting, and other social justice and environmental issues.
After voting laws that have been deemed restrictive by critics were passed in Georgia, corporations felt pressured to respond. Several did, including Major League Baseball, which moved its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado.
In a recent example of the pressure, Toyota halted giving campaign contributions to Republican lawmakers who challenged the results of the election.
The competition for advisory firms like these is fierce, but many, especially ones run by people with high-level contacts, are often successful.
Teneo, which was co-founded by Bill Clinton’s former right-hand man, Doug Band, historically has been known as an influential advisory group that has links to massive corporations.
The same can be said for WestExec Advisors, who has seen over 15 consultants head into the Biden administration, according to reporting by The Intercept and The American Prospect. Antony Blinken co-founded WestExec and is now Secretary of State.
One of the other expected leaders of Henes’ firm is Alvin Tillery, according to the sources. Tillery is an associate professor out of Northwestern University and director of the school’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.
Tillery has experience running an advisory firm of his own. He is the founder of Analytic Insights Consulting, which, according to the firm’s website, “advises corporate, nonprofit, and governmental entities seeking to build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments.” The firm’s listed previous clients include MGM International Resorts, Baker Demonstration School, the City of Evanston, and Exelixis.
If Tillery and Henes reach an official agreement, the Northwestern associate professor would continue his work at the school and will have a leadership role at the newly created advisory business, a person said. Analytic Insights Consulting is potentially folded into the new firm founded by the former Kirkland & Ellis partner, this person noted.
Tillery did not return a request for comment.
Henes was Harris’ national finance chair while she was running for president during the 2020 election, helping her raise at least $400,000 before he started raising money for Joe Biden, CNBC previously reported.
Henes also led fundraising efforts both for Democrat Jaime Harrison’s bid for South Carolina’s U.S. Senate seat last year and former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire’s campaign for New York mayor in the Democratic primary this year.
While the Harris, Harrison and McGuire runs were unsuccessful, his fundraising efforts were key for Henes in developing contacts and potential partners and clients for his new firms. Harris went on to be vice president, and Harrison is the new chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Henes also developed strong corporate ties when he worked for clients as a restructuring and corporate governance advisor. Kirkland’s website shows that his past clients include Ion Media, Avaya and J. Jill.