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The Associated Press got a great shot of Rahm Emanuel giving daughter Leah a kiss during his 2015 inauguration. 0

Emanuel chokes up talking about daughter graduating

April 22nd, 2018

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s youngest child, Leah, is graduating from high school in the coming days and that’s got him a little verklempt.

“I  kinda get kind weepy as this point in my life now,” he acknowledged to a fundraising crowd gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel last week. “My youngest is going to get out of high school, and I think back about what Amy and I have done … what we did right and what we did wrong. And I look at kids in schools every week,” he said, referring to his role in helping lead Chicago Public Schools. “If a child from Ravenswood has a different image of that city than a child from Roseland, we will never be who we can be. Instead, one thinks that they have the future in the city…and the other thinks it’s a foreign land,” he said, adding, “It’s about giving every kid the same chance.”

His lengthy speech headlined the annual State of Volunteerism breakfast sponsored by Chicago Cares. That’s the organization that connects volunteers year-round to community projects. It also sponsors the annual serve-a-thon in June–which is billed as the city’s largest day of service. You can sign up here. The program fits well with the mayor’s goal for building diversity in the city.

But Emanuel had personal reasons for attending the event as well.

It was co-chaired by his friend Michael Sacks, CEO of GCM Grosvenor Capital Management. The Chicago businessman just donated $500,000 to Emanuel’s campaign committee. Sacks and Emanuel are also friends of Chicago Cares co-founder Leslie Bluhm. And she’s the daughter of billionaire businessman Neil Bluhm. He was in the audience, and Emanuel singled him out for being a humble man of philanthropy.

Humble indeed.

When Leslie Bluhm announced that the Four Seasons had donated the breakfast, the crowd cheered–not realizing her dad owns the hotel. Just another example of Neil Bluhm’s philanthropy.

You can read my transcript of the mayor’s speech here.

Mellody Hobson

HOBSON FRONT AND CENTER: It’s not often directors of corporate boards go public to talk about the companies they represent.

But there was Chicago businesswoman Mellody Hobson the other day on TV addressing the drama at Starbucks. She serves on the board.

The company is shutting down stores May 29 to conduct racial-bias training after a Philadelphia barista called police on two African American men doing what we all do at Starbucks–hang out.

Hobson went on CBS News, where she’s also a contributor, to say Starbucks is trying to do “everything we possibly can to create the environment that is important to our brand and everything we aspire to be as a company and as a country.”

Her presence on the board–as an African American business leader–has never been more important. Here’s a list of African Americans from Chicago who sit on corporate boards.

Alec Litowitz

MATH WHIZ QUIZZES RAPPER: Alec Litowitz, the CEO of Magnetar Capital, proved to be a skilled interviewer the other day. He got Chance the Rapper to talk about achieving success without signing with a major record label. Artists who do so often lose creative control with their music.

The rapper credited his mom, who he described as a savvy businesswoman. She owned a shop on “black beauty row” in Hyde Park. Though she had employees, costumers and vendors, she avoided anything that had to do with legal paperwork. “She was anti-contracts,” said her son. Maybe it was because she didn’t understand the legalese or was afraid of it, he said. “But it made me interested” in how contracts work.

You can read the full interview here.

His discussion with Litowitz took place during a benefit for Magnetar Youth Investment Academy. The Academy’s program is taught in schools throughout Chicago, and Litowitz hopes to scale it so it can be taught nationally.

It’s part of the Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative, a high school-based financial education program that Litowitz founded.

Litowitz is an MIT grad with degrees in science and math (and law and MBA degrees from University of Chicago). Interesting side note: He was the first All-American squash player in MIT’s history.

Christopher Esbrook

BREAKING AWAY: Chris Esbrook has left Kirkland & Ellis to start his own firm–Esbrook Law. The Chicago attorney spent 15 years at Kirkland–including as a partner. He focused on a wide range of legal issues, from commercial litigation in federal and state courts to contract disputes and class actions.

Esbrook will be doing similar work on his own and also providing “elite services for value-based fee structures.” The concept is to move away from the hourly rate where possible in order to better align the interests of Esbrook Law and its client, he explained.

It’s unusual for law partners to break away from the comforts of a big firm.

Esbrook says businesses want “world-class litigators” at boutique prices. “I think this is where commercial litigation is headed. Businesses have never been under more intense pressure to be efficient, including with their legal costs, but it’s  ultimately counterproductive to sacrifice quality in choosing a lawyer.”

He has the support and guidance of an attorney who found success on his own.

Esbrook’s father-in-law is Clifford Law Offices founder Bob Clifford, whose daughter is style consultant Tracy Clifford.

Susan Rifkin

ATTEN-SHUN! NEW FOUNDATION CHIEF: Susan Rifkin, a veteran in the nonprofit world has been named executive director of the Tawani Foundation and Pritzker Military Foundation–both started by billionaire Jennifer Pritzker (who continues as president).

Tawani Foundation supports arts and culture, historical preservation, education and issues related to the LGBT community. The Pritzker Military Foundation supports organizations that preserve military history and provides resources to military and veteran families.

Rifkin will be responsible for day-to-day activists and programs at the foundations. She comes to the organization after serving as executive director of the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations in Skokie. And before that, she worked for Hadassah Chicago and The ARK nonprofits.

In a release, Pritzker praised Rifkin, calling her “a wonderful collaborator.” In the same release, Rifkin said she was “humbled” by the appointment. “Both Foundations have an incredible connection to the community and are uniquely poised to address the deepest needs, ideals and opportunities of the people it serves.”

Paul Bauer

BROTHERS IN BLUE: The late Police Commander Paul Bauer, who was shot to death in the stairwell near the Thompson Center last month, will be honored at a fundraiser May 10 for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.

That group helps support fallen Chicago Police officers and their families.

It’s being held at Shore Club, located near North Avenue Beach. The May 10 event part will include a Blues Brothers cover band.


CHICAGO BOUND: A high-profile figure in the Cleveland arts community is moving to Chicago.

Karen Gahl-Mills

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Karen Gahl-Mills is stepping down from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, which hands out tens of millions of dollars to arts groups.

Gahl-Mills said her decision had nothing to do with recent criticism of the agency, which has seen revenues decline. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture is funded by a 30-cent-a-pack cigarette tax. Ten years ago, it brought in $20 million a year, according to county records. This year, it is expected to bring in less than $15 million.

In a statement, the agency said Gahl-Mills will teach at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University and look to work with the Civic Consulting Alliance. It will be a coming home for Gahl-Mills. She earned a bachelor’s in music from DePaul University and an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.


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