William F. Weld, the former Massachusetts governor who left to practice law and delve into venture capital in New York for the last 15 years, is returning to Massachusetts to become a partner in one of Boston’s largest law firms and a consultant to its lobbying arm.
Weld will become a partner at Mintz Levin and a principal at ML Strategies, the law firm’s government relations affiliate. He will focus on serving both international and domestic clients, the firm said Tuesday.
Weld will also join Stephen Tocco, the president and chief executive of ML Strategies and his former top Cabinet secretary, who also was executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority under Weld.
Tocco and R. Robert Popeo, the law firm’s chairman, put together the agreement for Weld’s return to Boston in negotiations that began at the Republican National Convention in late August.
Popeo praised Weld for having moved from a successful career in public service to one in the private sector.
“Since leaving public life and establishing a highly successful law practice, he has continued to play an important role in domestic and international affairs, while building extensive relationships with major companies around the world,” said Popeo.
The former governor, who served from 1991 to 1997, will relocate with his wife, Leslie, to Cambridge.
Weld, a Republican and one of the state’s most popular governors in recent times, resigned in 1997 after President Bill Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to Mexico. The Senate ultimately blocked his appointment.
Since he left government, Weld has been affiliated with McDermott Will & Emery in New York.
Weld emerged as a major public figure in the 1980s when he served as the US attorney in Boston and oversaw a high-
profile investigation into the political activities of then-Boston mayor Kevin H. White. No charges were ever brought against White, but the investigation dominated much of Weld’s tenure as a prosecutor.
In 1990, Weld bucked the Republican establishment and won the GOP nomination for governor on a platform of fiscal conservatism and liberal social positions. He was then able to cobble together a coalition of liberal Republicans, independents, and disaffected Democrats to eke out a victory over Democratic nominee John Silber, the former president of Boston University.
As governor, Weld created a colorful image, often playing the dilettante who would disappear to his “cottage’’ in the Adirondacks to fish or to shoot boars in a special hunting preserve in New Hampshire. He would frequently return with photographs and wild tales from the forest.
As governor, Weld, who loved to display his knowledge of good literature, also penned his first novel, a political intrigue.
His challenge to US Senator John F. Kerry in 1996 drew national attention and is held up as one of the marquee races of modern state politics. Kerry won after a long and contentious race, but Weld, according to polls, emerged from the campaign as a more popular political figure than the senator.
His quirky political position led him to endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 postprimary presidential campaign. He is backing Mitt Romney this year and was recently in Boston to endorse US Senator Scott Brown, a Republican.
Weld’s private-sector experience was tarnished in 2005 when a a commercial trade school in Kentucky in which his investment firm had a minority stake declared bankruptcy and closed, leaving hundreds of students stranded. The collapse prompted a series of federal and state investigations. Weld was never implicated in any wrongdoing but his role at the school help to sink his attempt to run for governor of New York in 2006.
Frank Phillips can be reached at email@example.com.