Ex-HarbourVest MD withdraws as navy secretary nominee

Philip Bilden has withdrawn himself from consideration as US navy secretary, citing privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.

Philip Bilden, a former Hong Kong-based managing director of HarbourVest Partners, has withdrawn his name from consideration as secretary of the US Navy, Bilden and secretary of defense Jim Mattis said in statements released on Sunday.

Bilden cited concerns about privacy and disruptions to financial interests for his decision. He said in a statement: “I fully support the President’s agenda and the Secretary’s leadership to modernise and rebuild our Navy and Marine Corps, and I will continue to support their efforts outside of the Department of the Navy.”

“However, after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”

US president Donald Trump nominated Bilden in January this year to take up the post of navy secretary and has called Bilden as the “right choice” to help the Navy expand and modernise its ships.

In a statement in January, the White House also characterised Bilden as “a highly successful business leader, former Military Intelligence officer, and Naval War College cybersecurity leader [who] will bring strategic leadership, investment discipline, and Asia Pacific regional and cyber expertise to the Department of the Navy”.

Bilden served 10 years in the US Army Reserve as a Military Intelligence officer from 1986 to 1996 before moving to Hong Kong in 1996 to set up the Asian operations of HarbourVest. He retired after 25 years at the firm.