News & Scoops

Who’s going to Davos? Not Sam Zell

January 22nd, 2018

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while, but I’m back keeping tabs on Chicago’s who’s who. Thank you for all your kind notes and emails while I took a much-needed break.

There’s so much to catch up on–#metoo, a government shutdown, freezing temps, gubernatorial politics and Davos!

You know me–I like to stay focused on who’s doing what. So let’s go:

One Chicago CEO who won’t be at Davos is Sam Zell.

The hoity-toity resort isn’t his scene. But that didn’t keep the billionaire who likes motorcycles from weighing in on a topic that’s got Davos attendees buzzing. Zell got into a war of words the other day with Laurence Fink, who heads BlackRock asset management company (a firm with $6.3 trillion in investments). Fink wrote a letter to public-company CEOs on the even of Davos, saying companies should make “a positive contribution to society.” Fink will be a speaker at Davos.

Zell took issue with the comments and told CNBC Fink was “extraordinarily hypocritical.”

At least one interesting name from Chicago is attending. Meet Parvathi “Parv” Santhosh-Kumar, a Chicago leadership development coach with the national StriveTogether nonprofit.

She’ll be rubbing elbows with the likes of 3,000 people of wealth and influence, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, CEOs Bill Gates and Ginni Rometty, and celebrities Cate Blanchet and Elton John.

Rometty, of IBM and a Northwestern University trustee, is among the all-female co-chairs of this year’s Davos. Interesting in this #metoo era.

Justin and Rahm

And speaking of Trudeau, he’s visiting Chicago next month. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office posted a picture on Twitter of the two of them together to announce the news. Trudeau’s visit is part of a broader trip to the United States. While in Chicago, he’s supposed to address a group at University of Chicago.

Shhhh. No one’s supposed to know yet, but I hear former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be visiting Chicago in April when he’ll be the honoree at the annual Lincoln Leadership Prize dinner.

Speaking of politics, have you been getting bombarded by calls from the gubernatorial campaigns? I have. Props to Daniel Biss’s folks for their personal touch in phone calls. He and the other two top Democratic contenders will surely be ramping up their campaigns as the March primary gets closer.

I saw J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy among politicos joining in Saturday’s women’s march in Chicago. And this week, Kennedy is bringing out more family members to support his efforts. Bobby Kennedy Jr. will be in town Tuesday to support his younger brother on the day of the first televised debate.

Ken Griffin

If you’ve been under a social-media rock, you might not have heard about billionaire Ken Griffin’s latest purchase. He’s bought the most expensive home in Chicago–a $58.5 million condo in the Gold Coast. That follows his purchase in recent years of the most expensive home in New York–and Palm Beach, Fla.

As much as you want to roll your eyes at the thought, the CEO of Chicago-based Citadel makes up for all the over-the-top spending by his philanthropic donations. He’s donated millions to improve the lakefront bike path and to help build 50 mini soccer fields in neighborhood around Chicago.

Eric Whitaker

Speaking of philanthropy, I recently profiled Dr. Eric Whitaker, who’s revamping the organization that helped get his start in medicine. You can read about it here. Whitaker also makes some revealing comments about what it’s like to be Barack Obama’s best friend.

Smita Shah

Smita Shah talked to me recently about the challenges she faced as a woman starting a business  in an all-male industry–engineering. She doesn’t have a #metoo harassment story, per se, but there are plenty of women who will relate to Shah’s experiences of feeling patronized by the male executives who she sat across in the boardroom. Here’s her story.

And here’s a story about businessman John Vaile and his plan to reinvigorate the city’s West Side. He’s started “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities” (CEO), a mentoring program modeled after a similar program in downstate Illinois. Both the gritty North Lawndale neighborhood and rural towns face similar problems–bright, young people leave and never return. Vaile hopes to change that. His story appears in the Chicago Sun-Times.


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One Response to Who’s going to Davos? Not Sam Zell

  1. John Atkinson says:

    Glad you are back- great story about Smita

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