Ed Gillespie, a Veteran Washington Hand, Will Join Sard Verbinnen

Posted June 5, 2018 4:16 p.m. EDT

Sard Verbinnen, the financial communications firm, is turning to a longtime Washington operative to run its new business focused on the intersection of business and government.

The firm on Tuesday named Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a lobbyist who claimed the party’s nomination for governor of Virginia last year, as the chairman of its new public affairs practice in Washington.

Sard Verbinnen, which announced the formation of the group less than a week ago, is seeking to help its clients navigate a federal government that is playing a bigger role in corporate America’s affairs, said George Sard, a founder of the firm and its chief executive. Mergers increasingly draw government scrutiny — see AT&T’s bid for Time Warner — and international clients are asking how Washington will affect their business activities in the United States.

“About five to 10 years ago, Washington was pretty peripheral,” Sard said in a telephone interview. “Now it’s pretty central to everything we’re doing. It became increasingly obvious that this was something we needed to do.”

Since Sard Verbinnen sold a 40 percent stake in itself to the investment firm Golden Gate Capital two years ago, the company has opened offices in Hong Kong and Houston and formed a number of new practices. The firm has lost a number of partners since the investment as well.

The public affairs team includes Miriam Sapiro, a deputy U.S. trade representative in the Obama administration, and Bruce Haynes, a political communications specialist with ties to the Republican Party. Now helping to lead the new business is Gillespie, 56, a two-time political candidate who served in the George W. Bush administration. (Despite Gillespie’s background, the business will not do any lobbying.)

After he lost the Virginia governor’s race, Gillespie became a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, but said he had been considering returning to the private sector, having ruled out a third run for office.

He was previously a lobbyist at several firms, including Quinn Gillespie, once one of the most prominent lobbying organizations. He has also worked at the Brunswick Group, another communications firm, as a senior counselor.

“One of the things that was most appealing was the ability to have a blank slate,” Gillespie said in a telephone interview.