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Terry Duffy, Conan O'Brien, Rahm Emanuel and Michael Small 0

Duffy’s big deal with wine; and Hollywood’s nod to Emanuel

April 1st, 2018

Business executives seldom reveal the back story of securing big deals. So what fun to learn how CME Group’s purchase of NEX Group came about.

It was in New York restaurants with bottles of French wine.

“A lot of the discussions happened over a nice glass of red,” CME Group CEO Terry Duffy told the Wall Street Journal after the $5.4 billion deal was announced last week.

NEX Group provides post-trading products and services–a business that dovetails well with the CME, which runs the behemoth options and futures exchange. It’s a career-maker for Duffy, who’s already made his mark on the industry.

NEX Group CEO Michael Spencer collects wine so he chose the bottle for the meetings with Duffy.

“Me being from the South Side of Chicago, I have no idea what it is and I just drink it,” Duffy told the Journal, sounding smoothly unpretentious.

A few other Chicago-area companies had their own big deals to crow about in recent days. Though wine didn’t seem to play a role: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg in a hush hush meeting to sign a deal for a $450 million venture that will provide maintenance and repair support for that country’s military aircraft. And Motorola Solutions has just completed its purchase of Avigilon, a Canada-based provider of video-surveillance solutions and analytics, for about $1 billion in cash.

HOLLYWOOD LIKES THE MAYOR: Hollywood and big media are coming out in force to support Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s likely campaign for a third term. That election is in 2019.

Conan O’Brien

The most recently filed election listings show donations from entertainer Conan O’Brien’s producing team; executives from Sony, Universal, HBO and Starz; and the publisher of supermarket tabloids National Enquirer, Star and Men’s Fitness.

Here are the interesting Hollywood names that popped up as donors to the Chicago for Rahm Emanuel political action fund:

Larry David, creator of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO, gave $5,000;

Nancy Dubuc, former CEO of A&E Networks and now CEO of Vice Media, gave $5,000;

David Pecker, CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI), which publishes Star, National Enquirer, Shape and Men’s Fitness, gave $5,600;

Jeff Ross, executive producer of Conaco LLC, the TV production firm owned by Conan O’Brien, gave $2,000;

And top executives from Starz, Film 44, Sony Pictures and Universal Studios each gave at least $5,000.

SMALL’S BIG DONATION: Michael Small, who recently retired from Gogo, the Chicago phone system for airlines, also gave to the mayor’s fund. Filings show a donation of $5,000.

Michael Small

“I think Rahm is smart and tenacious, and always trying to do what’s right for the city,” Small told me.

The Chicago businessman has an interesting backstory that’s focused on making the world a better place.

Small is a longtime advocate for gun control, a concern that began nearly 20 years ago when his then 11-year-old son was playing at a friend’s house and was injured by a BB gun. The younger Small now lives with an ocular prosthesis after losing sight in his right eye.

The incident prompted Small to support organizations that advocate for gun safety and against gun violence.

While traumatic, Small said he realized the problem of guns was a national problem with as many as 30,000 people killed each year from guns. So he started getting involved. “I thought, ‘I’m a businessperson. Of course I can do something to reduce that number,’ ” he told me in a previous story.

He joined Ceasefire New Jersey, a gun-violence prevention group (he lived back east at the time), and PAX, which treated gun safety as a public health issue. That group would merge with the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Small is a past board chair of that organization.

ALLSTATE IN LINE OF FIRE: Allstate Insurance has been swept into a national controversy related to guns. It started when conservative TV host Laura Ingraham made derogatory comments about one of the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. That victim took to Twitter calling on advertisers to pull support from Ingraham’s show. So far 11 companies have done so. Allstate, the Chicago-area insurance firms, was listed as an advertiser but hasn’t responded as to whether it will stick with the show or not.

Now comes news that Ingraham’s supporters are calling for a a boycott of advertisers who left the show.

INVOKING SEAN CONNERY: Chicago entrepreneur Lou Weisbach invoked Sean Connery and a scene from “The Untouchables” in a column he wrote in Huffington Post.

Sean Connery

Weisbach says the real cancer in society is politics.  “It is the issue that politicians tout as a terrible evil in virtually every campaign but rarely dare touch once elected,” he wrote. He called the amount of money being donated to elected politicians “astonishing.”

Weisbach is a longtime behind-the-scenes player in political circles. During the Clinton-Gore era, he was chairman of the Jefferson Trust, which courted the nation’s biggest Democratic Party donors. He’s gone on to work on nonpartisan causes, often dedicated to veterans’ issues.

In his Huff Post column, Weisbach urged leaders “to stop hiding behind the cover of individual issues that are not going to be solved and strike a blow to the heart of the problem. We all know the fundamental issue, but who is prepared to do something about it?”

He compared it all to a scene in “The Untouchables” between Connery and Kevin Costner, who portrayed Eliot Ness–who was committed to taking down the illegal distilleries. “He asks Connery, a hard-nosed policeman, where the illegal distilleries are. Connery replies that everyone knows where they are, but who is prepared to cross the line?”

The same thing is happening in politics, Weisbach wrote. “We all know that special interests’ unimpeded ability to give massive amounts of money to politicians is the malignancy that has permeated our political system … Who is prepared to cross the proverbial line, and what can be done?”






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