Biden to Tap Jeff Zients as His Next White House Chief of Staff
A person familiar with the selection process said that Mr. Zients will not have to go far to train for his new job since he and a deputy have been working from the White House campus for months as they assessed possible hires for the second half of the term. That person also noted that the president is likely to continue keeping Mr. Klain close, pointing out that he never really leaves Mr. Biden’s orbit.
Some of the president’s allies, however, privately worried about installing a less politically attuned chief of staff heading into a re-election campaign and a period of partisan trench warfare with the House. They feared that outsourcing politics at a stage of the presidency when it might be the dominant force could mean that Mr. Biden’s chief aide is not as effective.
Mr. Zients, 56, grew up in Washington, joining the wrestling team at the capital’s elite St. Albans School before graduating from Duke University in 1988. He worked at Bain Consulting in Boston, then returned to Washington to work for David Bradley, founder of the Advisory Board Company, which specialized in research for the health care industry, eventually becoming its chief executive.
At Bain, Mr. Zients met and reported to Mary Menell, who grew up in South Africa. They married in 1992 in Cape Town at a wedding attended by Nelson Mandela, a friend of her parents. The couple now lives with their four children in Washington, where Mr. Zients was an original investor in a string of popular bagel shops named Call Your Mother and has been known to drive around in an Aston Martin.
Over the past two decades, he made Fortune magazine’s list of the 40 richest Americans under 40 (just two slots below a young Elon Musk) and embarked on various ventures, including part of a failed bid to buy the Washington Nationals. He reported assets between $76 million and $419 million on 2022 financial forms, which use only ranges and are therefore imprecise.
Mr. Zients got his entry to high-level government after supporting Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign. When Mr. Obama won, Mr. Zients was named the nation’s first chief performance officer and later took over as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget twice and eventually became the national economic adviser. After the 2020 election, he helped run Mr. Biden’s transition before becoming the coronavirus coordinator.
For more than a year, he was the familiar face and steady voice at weekly briefings updating the public on the pandemic. He was credited with distributing more than 200 million vaccine shots in his first few months in office, arranging the delivery of nearly 400 million free N95 masks and shaving months off the development of an antiviral pill.