Facebook has hired the former chief of staff to onetime U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales as its general counsel, according to the Los Angeles Times. Ted Ullyot, currently a Washington, D.C.-based partner for the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, will relocate to the Bay Area and join the Palo Alto social network next month.
He appears to have been hand-picked by Elliot Schrage, the former Google executive who joined Facebook as vice president of communications and public policy this spring, and Sheryl Sandberg, another Google alum who now serves as the company's chief operating officer.
Ullyot "has an extraordinary combination of private legal practice and public sector experience," Schrage told the Los Angeles Times. "So many of the legal issues we face touch on both of those arenas. He is equally comfortable helping us expand internationally as he is in helping us navigate complicated legal issues we may face in Washington. Ted's arrival really demonstrates we're a little more grown-up."
"Grown up" is a necessity for Facebook's image these days; founder Mark Zuckerberg is only 24, and after the public relations clusterbomb that was the "Beacon" advertising program, it was clear that some more seasoned executives had to be brought on board.
Ullyot joins Facebook fewer than six months into his stint at Kirkland & Ellis, though he had been at the law firm from 1996 to 2002 before serving as general counsel for AOL Time Warner Europe out of the company's London office and then general counsel for the Greenwich, Conn.-based ESL Investments, the billion-dollar hedge fund founded by Edward Lampert.
Between 2003 and 2005, Ullyot occupied a number of positions in the federal government, including chief of staff of the Department of Justice and associate counsel to President George W. Bush. Most famously, he handled the federal government's response to the headline-grabbing Valerie Plame CIA leak.
"Ted has extremely strong connections with the Republican party, and we think that's a good thing," Schrage told the Times. COO Sandberg, on the other hand, has political experience from the other side of the aisle: she served as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton's Department of the Treasury.
Like many of Facebook's top executives, Ullyot attended Harvard University, where the social network was birthed in Zuckerberg's dorm room in 2004. Ullyot obtained his undergraduate degree from the elite college in 1989, two years ahead of Sandberg; an old Harvard Crimson article hints that he competed on the cross-country team. In addition to Sandberg and Zuckerberg (who dropped out to work on Facebook full-time), Schrage is also a Harvard graduate--he obtained his law degree there.
Some of Facebook's most famous legal problems have their roots at Harvard, too. The founders of ConnectU, the would-be social network that only recently settled a years-old intellectual property suit against Zuckerberg, were members of the class of 2004.