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Doesn’t Look Like Serena Williams Is Returning to the Court Anytime Soon, the Tennis Star Tapped By Banking Firm as an Advisor

By Jenny Surane

Consello Group, a newly formed investment banking firm that has been on a hiring spree since forming last year, added longtime Citigroup Inc. executive Mark Shafir and tennis star Serena Williams to its ranks. 

Serena Williams, center, during the ringing of the opening bell at the NYSE in August 2022.

Shafir, who was most recently co-head of global mergers and acquisitions at Citigroup, will join New York-based Consello as managing partner of the company’s M&A advisory and investment-banking business, according to a statement. Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion and venture capitalist, will join the firm as a senior adviser, Consello said in a separate statement. 

Founded by Declan Kelly, who formerly led the consulting and communications firm Teneo, Consello now has 75 employees and advisers spread across offices in New York, London and Miami. So far, the company has four lines of business: M&A advisory and investment banking, investing, growth and business development, and digital-assets advisory.

“I have been extremely impressed with the progress Declan and the entire team at Consello have made since the company’s launch last year, as well as the growth the company has had both in terms of financial-services advisory and its private equity investing business,” Williams said in the statement. 

With Shafir, Consello nabbed one of Wall Street’s senior-most investment bankers. He worked on some of the industry’s largest deals in recent years, including the $38 billion sale of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to Occidental Petroleum Corp. in 2019 and Kroger Co.’s planned $25 billion purchase of Albertsons Cos.

Shafir is the latest Citigroup executive to join Consello after Itay Tuchman, who previously oversaw the Wall Street giant’s sprawling foreign-exchange trading division, joined to lead the firm’s digital-asset business earlier this year.

“Leaders have never been more in need of a trusted partner that can provide unbiased and unconflicted advice to navigate such a challenging environment,” Shafir said in the separate statement. 

An Irish-American who previously served as the economic envoy to Northern Ireland for then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kelly co-founded Teneo in 2011 and expanded the firm into a communications behemoth that advises chief executives and boards alike. In 2021, Kelly stepped down from Teneo after reports of his drunken behavior at an event which he later called an “embarrassing mistake.” 

Kelly has added a number of executives to Consello’s ranks, including Janey Whiteside, a former Walmart Inc. executive, and Credit Suisse Group AG’s Mark Simonian.

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