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Year Up’s Chertavian finds a successor in Ellen McClain

Jordan Muse takes the lead job at MullenLowe; Another chart-topping year for Smith, Costello & Crawford; Goldberg makes case for going digital with lottery

Year Up founder and chief executive Gerald Chertavian.Chris Morris

Gerald Chertavian knows CEO transitions aren’t always seamless for an organization and can sometimes be disastrous — particularly when it’s the founder who is leaving.

That’s why Chertavian, founder and chief executive of workforce training nonprofit Year Up, has been deliberate with his own succession plan, one that’s four years in the making.

On Tuesday, Year Up will announce that president Ellen McClain will take over as chief executive on Dec. 1. The timing, Chertavian said, was driven by his belief that he found the right candidate. Chertavian will stay as a senior adviser for at least one year, and remain on Year Up’s national board for three; he will also co-teach a course at Harvard Business School in the spring with HBS professor Kash Rangan.


McClain joined in 2015 as Year Up’s chief financial officer. She eventually became chief operating officer and then president. She will remain based in New York, as Year Up’s chief executive.

“As opposed to saying, ‘here’s one person you champion,’ you provide opportunities for folks to show what they could do in expanded roles, and Ellen clearly rose to that,” Chertavian said. “[And] it was pretty clear that the board saw tremendous potential in Ellen.”

In an emailed statement, board chair Paul Edgerley added: “Ellen’s commitment to the mission and to providing pathways to opportunity for young adults has always been evident.”

McClain takes charge of an organization that is of a completely different scale than the one Chertavian launched in 2000. After selling Conduit Communications, a British IT consulting firm he cofounded, Chertavian started Year Up to reach students from underserved communities who were missing out on great job and career opportunities because they lacked a four-year degree. Year Up started in Boston with a $200,000 budget. Today, it has 30 locations, about 750 employees, and a budget of roughly $200 million. Year Up helps thousands of students each year, nearly all of them people of color, with tuition-free programs funded by a mix of corporate money and philanthropy.


Ellen McClain will take over as chief executive of Year Up on Dec. 1.Courtesy of Year Up

In the Boston market alone, Chertavian estimates Year Up placed more than 5,000 interns at 70-plus companies over the years. Key local employers include Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Mass General Brigham, and Harvard University.

Nationwide, the placements exceed 40,000. Chertavian said Year Up has placed more low-income, young adults of color into career-track jobs at Fortune 500 companies than any other institution in the United States.

Chertavian, who grew up in Lowell, said he couldn’t think of a better place to start a mission-focused nonprofit like the one he launched.

“I firmly believe Boston is the best city in the country to start and scale a social enterprise,” Chertavian said. “Look at the folks in this community that get behind new ideas, who are willing to invest in those and scale them.”

Muse takes charge at MullenLowe

If you run into Jordan Muse, you might want to ask him about his “Challenge Coin.”

A group of colleagues at ad agency MullenLowe took Muse out to dinner late last month at the Limani Grille, to celebrate his appointment as president of East Coast operations. The Department of Defense, coincidentally, had just renewed its contract with MullenLowe for another five years. So senior vice president Don Lorenzet gave Muse a collectible coin like those used to recognize honor and camaraderie in the military. In that “Challenge Coin” tradition, someone can end up paying for drinks at a bar if they are challenged and don’t have the coin with them.


The coin was a lighthearted way of reminding Muse of his newfound responsibility, overseeing the 250 people who work at the firm’s Boston and New York offices. Muse takes over for Kelly Fredrickson, who MullenLowe global chief executive Kristen Cavallo recently tapped to be chief culture officer across the firm’s three US offices — the other is in Los Angeles. For her part, Fredrickson said she’s looking forward to helping create a unified corporate culture at a time when the hybrid approach to work remains prevalent. Culture, she said, is crucial to attracting and retaining employees and clients.

Muse previously worked at The Martin Agency — which, like MullenLowe, is owned by Interpublic Group. (Cavallo is also Martin’s CEO.) Muse relocated from Virginia, where Martin is based, to New York for his new job, and will split his time between the Boston and New York offices.

Muse said he was honored by the coin — even if it means he might have to pay for a few drinks here or there.

“It just shows the team was willing to welcome me with open arms,” Muse said. “I’ll take on that responsibility.”

Still at the top of the lobbying shops

Guess who’s No. 1 again in Boston’s government relations game?

The state’s lobbying records for the first half of 2023 are now public, and Smith, Costello & Crawford lead the way in terms of lobbying salaries paid by clients. The firm first took the No. 1 spot away from longtime leader ML Strategies in 2019, and it has remained on top ever since. Because the mid-year records provide a solid indication of how the full-year rankings will end up, it’s a safe bet that the firm will end the year in the top position, making it the fifth year in a row.


The top three Boston lobbying firms as of July 1 were the same as last year: Smith, Costello & Crawford ($2.7 million for the first six months of 2023), Tremont Strategies Group ($2 million), and O’Neill and Partners ($1.9 million). Rounding out the top five are Dempsey Associates and Kearney, Donovan & McGee.

So what’s the secret? Jim Smith, cofounder of Smith, Costello & Crawford, points to hard work and persistence — and picking the right sectors in which to specialize. In his firm’s case, that’s healthcare, energy, and cannabis. All three require regular government interaction. The first two remain high-growth areas, while cannabis is petering out amid market oversaturation.

Now, Smith’s firm is fielding cold calls, particularly from prospective out-of-state clients, something that he says never really happened before. He said he knows the firm can’t stay No. 1 forever, but “we hope it continues as long as possible.”

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg photographed in her State House office in 2016.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Goldberg wants lottery to challenge digital rivals

Don’t get state Treasurer Deb Goldberg started on the issue of online lotteries.

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jim Rooney asked her about the controversial topic last week, after Goldberg held forth at a chamber meeting in Bank of America’s Federal Street offices.


Goldberg expressed frustration with her failed attempts to persuade the Legislature to allow the state lottery, which is under her purview, to offer online sales. It’s something Goldberg has sought for years. She said the need has only increased following the legalization of mobile sports betting.

“When you’re the No. 1 operator in your business environment, do you sit on your laurels and let other newbies come in and step all over your business? That’s where we’re at,” Goldberg said. “Strategically it makes no sense to me whatsoever, given that they’re all for-profit. They’re not giving money back to the local communities.”

The House approved a so-called iLottery measure in its proposed state budget this past spring, but the Senate declined to go along. (Retailers had opposed it, because they worried it could hurt their brick-and-mortar sales.)

However, Goldberg did note that the state lottery set a new record in the most recent fiscal year, surpassing $6 billion in revenue. It obviously has no online option and a marketing budget of $4.5 million — a fraction of what casinos and sportsbook companies spend.

“We still do our thing with our $4.5 million,” Goldberg said. “Soon you’re going to see me in meetings like this, singing the lottery ads, because that’s all we’re going to be able to afford.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.