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Gene Reineke

Chairman and Founder

After spending almost two decades in Illinois state government for two gubernatorial administrations, Gene Reineke moved to the private sector to work on behalf of corporate clients and other organizations at the international public relations firm of Hill+Knowlton Strategies. 

Gene’s experiences and expertise have been focused on issues and reputation management, crisis communications, and thought leadership on behalf of his many clients over the past almost twenty years. Gene was on-site at AIG when the firm was at the center of the economic ‘great recession,’ and at Cigna as the interim chief communications officer in the lead-up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’). He has also worked with a number of law firms representing client interests in their dealings with the media and with various universities during investigations that were in the public eye. 

After serving as Hill+Knowlton’s U.S. chief operating officer and head of client service, in addition to leading offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., Gene decided to start his own firm. More than seven years ago, he formed the strategic communication consultancy, Hawthorne Strategy Group, based in Chicago. 

Hawthorne’s first client was Aflac, the supplemental insurance company. Since then, Hawthorne has grown to more than a dozen full-time employees and numerous partners nationwide. The firm has clients across the U.S. from Chicago to Texas and from California to Washington D.C., in wide-ranging business sectors, from consumer goods to higher education. Local Chicago-based clients include the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McCormick Place) and various civic nonprofits serving the greater Chicagoland community (e.g. YMCA of Metro Chicago, Chicago Children’s Choir). In 2019, Gene was recognized as the PRSA Chicago’s Professional of the Year. 

Gene holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola University Chicago, a Master’s degree specializing in American Politics from Boston College, and eight professional certificates from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. He is currently working towards a master’s degree in ethics and leadership at The University of Chicago. 

Gene divides his time between a condo a few blocks from Wrigley Field in Chicago and a home in Valparaiso, Indiana, near America’s newest national park at the Indiana Dunes.