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Bob Sternfels has been re-elected as global managing partner of McKinsey after a tougher than expected contest that exposed divisions among the consultancy’s senior partners about his leadership style.
Sternfels defeated the head of McKinsey’s digital strategy practice, Rodney Zemmel, in a run-off election, according to people familiar with the process.
The outcome means that Sternfels has avoided the fate of his predecessor, Kevin Sneader, who was voted out in 2021, becoming the first global managing partner since 1976 not to win a second term.
Sternfels has doubled down on Sneader’s investments in risk and compliance functions and new processes to vet clients following a series of scandals, including over the firm’s work for drug companies accused of fuelling the US opioid addiction crisis.
He has also pushed to integrate the firm to better serve global clients, telling the Financial Times last year that the project would span more than a single leadership term. Global managing partners are limited to two terms.
Zemmel had emerged as Sternfels’ strongest challenger in a three-round election process, which exposed complaints among the firm’s 750 senior partners that Sternfels had concentrated decision-making in the hands of too few executives and mishandled the lay-offs of 1,400 back-office staff last year.
Sternfels, 54, is a 30-year McKinsey veteran, having joined the firm in San Francisco in 1994. He previously led the firm’s operations practice in the Americas and its private equity practice globally.
The announcement of his re-election came on the same day he was called to appear in front of a US Senate committee to answer claims the firm had failed to comply with a congressional subpoena of documents related to its work with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
McKinsey generated a record $16bn revenue in 2023, despite a broad slowdown in the consulting industry. It does not disclose profits.
In recent years, the firm has “deepened its capabilities in implementation, digital and organisational transformation, and sustainability consulting, including by acquiring more than 25 companies”, McKinsey said in a statement announcing Sternfels’ re-election.