Russell Reynolds Associates Launches Board & CEO Advisory Group

April 25, 2017 – Following similar moves taken by rivals, Russell Reynolds Associates has launched a separate board and CEO advisory division within the firm. The shift takes the nation’s No. 5 search firm beyond its core recruiting business and further into process planning, assessment, strategy & performance measurement, and culture shaping.

The new advisory group brings together the expertise of six of the firm’s board experts, whose proficiencies and diverse perspectives will be used to enhance the board performance of clients by helping to proactively plan director and CEO succession, review board effectiveness, design and implement best-in-class corporate governance processes, and assess board culture and values.

Expert Advisors

Justus O’Brien has been named co-leader of the firm’s division in New York, where he serves as a managing director. He has established and well regarded board advisory relationships with Fortune and FTSE 100 companies across all industry sectors.


Justus O’Brien joined Russell Reynolds Associates just over two years ago to co-lead the firm’s integrated CEO and board advisory services group. With nearly 20 years of search and succession planning experience, Mr. O’Brien previously served as co-head of the CEO succession practice at rival Egon Zehnder, where his efforts focused on board and succession work at Fortune 100 clients. During his tenure there, he was head of the firm’s global consumer practice and U.S. board practice.


Charles Tribbett is the other co-leader of Russell Reynolds’ advisory group. He serves as a managing director in Chicago. He is a senior advisor to corporate boards and CEOs in the area of corporate governance, fiduciary responsibilities and diversity in the boardroom.

Joining them are:

Constantine Alexandrakis, leader of the firm’s U.S. business and its global leadership & succession practice. He serves also as a managing director Chicago. He has advised a range of public and private companies across an array of industries on corporate governance, board effectiveness and leadership transformation;

Margot McShane, former co-leader of the firm’s global consumer digital practice and a managing director in San Francisco, leverages her extensive experience in digital transformation to advise boards of Fortune 500 companies, as well as venture capital and private equity-backed companies;

Jack O’Kelley, global head of the board consulting and effectiveness practice and a managing director in New York, advises corporate boards and CEOs in the areas of corporate governance (U.S. and global), board succession planning and refreshment, board assessments and CEO succession planning;

Dean Stamoulis, leader of the firm’s Center for Leadership Insight and a managing director in Atlanta, provides guidance to boards on CEO selection and succession, development of CEO candidates, and board and C-suite people-related dynamics.

External Perspectives

The new division also includes four external advisors, who provide knowledge in corporate governance from the regulatory, investment and board director perspective across a broad spectrum of industries and global markets.

They are:

Jackson Tai, an accomplished executive with significant global experience, particularly in Asia. Mr. Tai sits on four public company boards and most recently was a member of the Russell Reynolds’ board;

Ronald Williams, a veteran business leader, turnaround expert and advocate for value creation. He devotes his time and energy to helping future leaders with strategy, values-based leadership, public-private partnership and the continued transformation of the healthcare industry. Mr. Williams is a member of four public company boards and was the former chairman and CEO of Aetna;

Michelle Edkins, an expert and active participant in the public corporate governance debate. As managing director at BlackRock and global head of the investment stewardship team, she regularly speaks and writes on the importance of good stewardship for company performance;

Daniel Diermeier, a globally recognized scholar, currently holds  the post of provost of the University of Chicago, whose teaching and research focuses on the interaction of business and politics and public perception, as well as crisis and reputation management. As the founder and managing partner of Diermeier Consulting, he offers strategic advice for clients across an array of governance, stakeholder management and leadership needs.

Unprecedented Challenges

“Our clients today face unprecedented challenges in the marketplace. Never before has board performance been under such intense scrutiny by a range of stakeholders, including institutional investors, regulators and employees,” said Clarke Murphy, CEO of Russell Reynolds.

“This is coupled with significant transformation driven by volatility, complexity and speed in global markets. Our new board and CEO advisory group will help boards assure leadership talent, ensure an excellent focus on strategy and performance, and build a strong board culture to position CEOs and their companies for long-term success.”

He said the advisory group would offer a four-pronged proprietary approach, customized to specific client needs. The approach includes improving board effectiveness through a customized assessment process, including best practice benchmarking; identifying, assessing and appointing leaders; defining and shaping board culture to enhance diversity of perspectives; and working shoulder to shoulder with board chairs and chief executives on succession planning initiatives.

Justus O’Brien, Rusty O’Kelley and Charles Tribbett sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media last week to discuss the new initiative. Here’s some extracts from that interview.

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Justus, why the need for a new division, as opposed to keeping this within the firm’s general service offering package?

Much more is expected of boards in today’s complex and fast changing environment. This has created the opportunity for us to expand our services to include advisory work around board performance & effectiveness, CEO & board succession, and board culture & education. Growing demand for these services led us to form a new organizational structure with enhanced capabilities beyond traditional search to better serve our clients. The structure allows us to deploy dedicated advisory teams of experts, including former lawyers and management consultants with governance expertise, public and private company board directors, disruption and transformation experts, L&S experts, board effectiveness experts, and experts with deep CEO, board search and succession expertise. We have been building on existing RRA talent and hiring new talent over the past several years to respond to this demand from clients. We believe that the holistic approach offered through BCAG and our dedicated advisory teams assembled under this new structure will permit us to more effectively deliver a wider array of meaningful advisory services beyond traditional executive search.

Rusty, this seems to be a slight step away from recruiting – which we’re seeing any number of recruiting firms doing. Why the movement towards non-recruiting services?

We are not stepping away from senior level executive recruitment in any way – we are expanding. BCAG is a response to growing demand for a more consultative set of board services designed to enhance board and leadership performance. We have added new capabilities and people over the past several years to meet this demand.

The most pressing challenge for the C-suite is keeping up with the pace of change from disruptive forces impacting almost every industry. This requires robust talent management, which includes frequent reassessment of skills, competencies and experiences; vigorous development and training programs; imaginative and agile organizational designs and processes; and an enlightened approach to diversity and inclusion.”

Charles, what’s the biggest challenge corporate boards are facing? Is it succession planning, boardroom diversity, culture issues – all of the above?

All of the above. Boards face challenges not only from disruptive forces transforming their industries but also increasing regulatory and investor scrutiny. Institutional investors as well as activists are raising the expectations for directors and boards. Many of the services we are offering through our board & CEO advisory group are designed to help boards address these challenges proactively and creatively.

As far as talent management, Justus, what’s the most pressing issue from the C-suite on down today?

The most pressing challenge for C-suite talent management is keeping up with the pace of change from disruptive forces impacting almost every industry. This requires robust talent management, which includes frequent reassessment of skills, competencies and experiences; vigorous development and training programs; imaginative and agile organizational designs and processes; and an enlightened approach to diversity and inclusion.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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