Profile: A force behind Met Life’s IPO - Kevin Foley was a mere babe in pajamas when he began his journalism career. Matthew Boyle tracks the VP’s ascent from roving reporter to media pro

After meeting Kevin Foley, one could allow him a slight case of sibling rivalry.

After meeting Kevin Foley, one could allow him a slight case of sibling rivalry.

After meeting Kevin Foley, one could allow him a slight case of

sibling rivalry.

After all, one of his brothers is noted Hollywood auteur James Foley

(’Glengarry Glen Ross’ and the ’Twin Peaks’ TV series), while his other

younger brother Jerry is David Letterman’s director. Meanwhile, eldest

son Kevin ploughs his share in the slightly less glamorous world of

insurance, as VP of media and PR at MetLife.

But it will be Kevin taking center stage in upcoming months - in front

of 37 million customers no less - as he directs the communications

campaign behind the company’s much-publicized IPO. Not only does he have

to handle concerns from rural policyholders to Fortune 100 firms like GM

and IBM, but Foley has to bring together MetLife’s various business

units and ensure that they stay on message with their constituencies.

And you thought handling temperamental actors was tough. If all goes as

planned, MetLife will distribute somewhere in the neighborhood of

dollars 14 billion to 12 million shareholders, six times more than any

public company today. Talk about a blockbuster premiere.

Reporter in pajamas

Foley’s story begins on 62nd Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, 49 years

ago. Raised on Staten Island, Foley was bitten by the journalism bug

early in life - he fondly remembers ’covering’ the 1964 Republican

convention in his pajamas. His father, a lawyer for insurance firm Chubb

and an avid reader of newspapers, fostered the young Foley’s nascent

love of the written word and also of politics. He worked on various

publications throughout high school and college, and seemed destined for

a career in journalism.

A self-confessed ’troublemaker’ in school, Foley was active in

demonstrations against the changing nature of Fordham University’s

downtown campus, where the administration was trying to tone down its

radical reputation. Fed up, Foley made an abrupt decision to leave

school and see the country at age 19, via Greyhound bus. Foley’s

Kerouac-esque summer voyage of discovery brought him in contact with

plenty of unique people, some of whom are probably MetLife customers

today. ’It was a different era then, a lot more people were on the


Upon returning to New York, Foley enrolled at Richmond College and

studied political science. He also worked as a counselor at a children’s

home on Staten Island.

The experience was also Foley’s first brush with PR, although not in the

way anyone could foresee. The home became a target of a journalistic

investigation, and although Foley was not in charge of PR, it was a

sobering lesson in the importance of crisis communications.

Foley then got involved in politics, working for various local

Democratic candidates - ’sometimes I was paid, sometimes I wasn’t’ - and

ended up volunteering for Mario Cuomo’s mayoral campaign in 1977. While

the campaign itself was forgettable, it was a watershed moment. When

Cuomo ran for governor in 1982 Foley was again part of the candidate’s

press staff. This time, ’something startling happened - he won.’

Foley’s share of the spoils was a position heading up the PR department

at the NY State Insurance Department - not exactly a high-profile role:

’My immediate reaction was I thought I was getting punished.’ The 1980s,

however, were an exciting period in the insurance industry, particularly

in New York. Foley rose to become deputy superintendent. All the while

he was in charge of PR, handling crises like how the industry should

handle the growing menace of AIDS.

During his 11-year tenure with the Cuomo administration, Foley still

found a release for his passion for journalism. Along with a friend, he

started a biweekly newspaper, the Northshore Citizen, which served

Foley’s ego more than it served Staten Island residents. ’I probably

spent more time paying off the debts than I did publishing the

newspaper,’ he admits.

Foley was a bit surprised that the governor won a third term, and was

prepared to leave whether or not Cuomo was successful in his bid for a

fourth term. ’There’s a burnout factor, and at a certain point you want

to take a breather.’ Cuomo lost, and Foley moved on to start his own PR

consulting firm but soon found out that he wasn’t suited to running his

own business. ’I knew how to get things done in a bureaucracy - I didn’t

know how to get things done in an office by myself.’ The experiment

ended after one year, but client New York Life invited him to come on

board full-time to handle government relations. He settled into NY

Life’s headquarters, only a stone’s throw away from where he now works,

but soon realized that ’being lobbied is a lot more fun than lobbying.’

Foley was ready to restart his own practice when he heard that the top

PR job at Met Life was open.

Bringing cohesion to MetLife

In the months before Foley’s arrival in February 1998, MetLife had

garnered more than its share of bad press for its sales practices. ’The

company historically had not been the target of extreme negative

publicity, but it had become so,’ Foley says. What’s more, the company’s

PR, advertising and marketing efforts were in many ways separate islands

at the time, with different messages coming from each. Although he

couldn’t find the bathroom at MetLife’s massive Madison Avenue

headquarters on his first day, he’s had less difficulty bringing

cohesion to the communications efforts of the dollars 27 billion

operation. While not revolutionary, Foley’s approach to PR was the right

remedy for a firm struggling to redefine itself in a changing financial

market. ’I wanted to emphasize the role that PR plays in promoting the

company’s products and services. It’s not that no one had ever heard of

that before, but I didn’t find that we were doing that in a systematic

way. I still think we have a ways to go.’

And with Foley in the director’s chair, MetLife’s future PR efforts will

no doubt draw rave reviews.


Vice President, Media & PR, MetLife


Counselor, St. Michael’s Home for Children. Rose to become director of



Local newspaper reporter, political campaign consultant


Head of PR, deputy superintendent, New York State Insurance



Self-employed PR consultant


VP of Government Affairs, NY Life


VP of Media and PR, MetLife.

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