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Ken Griffin, left, Cheryle Jackson and the late Anthony Bourdain. 0

Griffin joins political fray, Jackson’s talk & Bourdain the dad

June 10th, 2018

Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin is jumping in to the political scene–in Florida, at least.

The CEO of Citadel hedge fund company has been named national finance chair for the New Republican PAC fueling Gov. Rick Scott‘s election campaign for the U.S. Senate.

“Like Gov. Scott, Mr. Griffin is a successful business leader and has a deep commitment to economic growth, job creation, and the future of our country,” New Republican Executive Director Blaise Hazelwood said in a news release.

Griffin grew up in Boca Raton and is building a mansion in Palm Beach, so it’s not a complete surprise that he’d be engaged in Florida politics.

Scott, ironically, was born in Bloomington, Ill., but raised in Missouri. He served in the U.S. Navy before pursuing a career in the hospital industry. He was elected governor of Florida in 2011. He can’t seek a third term, so instead he’s working to unseat three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Scott has a good friend in Griffin, who is a familiar name in GOP politics, having donated $5 million to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Conservative Solutions PAC and at least $100,000 to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In Illinois, Griffin is among an exclusive group of billionaire political donors. He gave a combined $21 million to Rauner’s 2014 gubernatorial bid and another $20 million (so far) to the Republican governor’s re-election efforts.

Griffin isn’t just interested in the state’s top job. He’s donated more than $10,000 to Illinois State Rep. David McSweeney in his re-election bid. McSweeney is a former financial consultant and investment banker from Barrington.

Griffin, who’s listed by Forbes as having a net worth of $8.5 billion, is a shrewd businessman. But he’s also a noted philanthropist. You can credit the new and improved Lake Shore bike path to his donation as well as the new dinosaur exhibit at the Field Museum.

Griffin is a self-described Reagan Republican who says he looks beyond party and focuses instead on track record. He’s a supporter, for example, of Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The two have known each other for more than 20 years.

TALKING PERSONAL: Chicago businesswoman Cheryle Jackson is featured in a powerful TED talk about facing breast cancer and divorce.

But it’s the segment about her experience in Illinois politics that took me by surprise.

“I was the first woman and first African American to lead communications for an Illinois governor,” she said, referring to the period she worked for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. “On the first day I was appointed, a reporter asked, ‘Did you get this job because black people voted for the governor–because they came out in big numbers and he owes them?”

There was a gasp in the crowd in the video tape of her talk.

Jackson, who is now a spokeswoman for AAR Corp., continued, saying, “Trailblazing is hard. You have to be wired a certain way–to take more blows than you can give and still stand strong in face of enormous adversity.”

Her talk is title, appropriately, “Grit and Grace.”

‘P’ WORD FALLOUT: There’s some push-back after billionaire Sam Zell said the “p” word to describe women during a recent business panel discussion.

Bloomberg reports that Jennifer Clark, executive vice president and general counsel of asset management firm RMR Group Inc., wrote a letter asking the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (Nareit) to clarify its stance on Zell’s remark.

While on stage, Zell had said he believes in promoting women based on merit, then added, “I don’t think there’s ever been a, ‘We gotta get more p—y on the block, OK?’”

Clark’s letter of concern about the comment was written on behalf of six trusts she helps oversee. Her RMR group oversees $30 billion in assets alone.

Nariet had initially responded saying it didn’t condone such language, but Clark said that wasn’t enough.

The group’s CEO, Steven Wechsler, acknowledges flubbing up on stage, according to Bloomberg.

“At the time, I tried to deflect the inappropriate comment, but in retrospect, I wish I had handled it differently,” Wechsler said.

IN REMEMBRANCE: The suicide deaths of celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade are even more jarring knowing that they both left behind children.

Spade’s daughter, Frances, is 13, and Bourdain’s daughter, Ariane, is 11.

I spoke to Bourdain in 2010 when he was making plans to appear in Chicago to talk about “No Reservations,” his show on the Travel Channel.

He talked about his favorite haunts in Chicago (The Publican, Pippin’s Tavern, the Green Mill, Rainbo Club and Matchbox). Mostly, but mostly we discussed (lamented) the challenge of teaching our children to be adventurous eaters. His daughter was 3 at the time.

“There’s no convincing kids to eat what they don’t want to eat,” said Bourdain.

The key is offering options, he said. “She loves grilled cheese sandwiches like everyone else. She likes pasta. I don’t want to raise an annoying foodie kid; that’s like child abuse. But this little girl has traveled a lot in her three years. She’s spent a lot of time in Italy. What she sees mommy and daddy eating is an interesting array of food, so she’s likely to shove it in her mouth and say ‘Yum yum, olives or wild boar risotto.’ She tried tripe goulash only because she saw mom and dad eating it and reached out and grabbed it.”

Bourdain said the real challenge was keeping bad food off the table. And with just the right comedic timing, he said, “She’s not going to be eating chicken nuggets. I’ll say eating them makes you weird in the schoolyard. Call it psychological warfare against a 3-year-old — it’s reverse psychology. It’s cruel but doable.”

Like so many, I’m going to miss that humor.

CENTER STAGE: Three notable names take the stage in Chicago after making headlines in recent weeks.

Janice Jackson, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, will be honored at the United Negro College Fund of Chicago gala on June 16. The school district has taken heat for failing to protect students from sexual assaults, according to a gut-wrenching Chicago Tribune investigation. Jackson has said she’s personally going to be held accountable.”

Former President Bill Clinton hits the Auditorium Theatre on June 21 to talk about his book, “The President Is Missing.” It’s a thriller novel he wrote with James Patterson. Clinton has been in the news for not owning up to his own #MeToo moment.

 And Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the Obama Foundation and a distinguished fellow at University of Chicago Law School, will speak at the annual luncheon benefiting Forefront on June 26. That’s the association for nonprofits and philanthropies (previously known as Donors Forum).

Jarrett became the center of a controversy about race when comedienne Roseanne Barr made a racist statement about her on Twitter. David Hiller, president and CEO of McCormick Foundation, will moderate a discussion with Jarrett and María Teresa Kumar, who heads the Voto Latino civic group. Will Hiller bring up the controversy?

NEXT CHAPTERS: Lots of change in the household of Kathy Brock and Doug Regan. Brock is retiring from the WLS-Channel 7 anchor chair just as Regan is jumping in to another career.

Regan is CEO of the newly started Cresset Wealth Advisors, a fee-only investment firm.

Regan was most recently head of J.P. Morgan’s private bank in the Midwest. He was also a member of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s Midwest Operating Committee. Before that, Regan spent 27 years at Northern Trust in a variety of executive positions,

Cresset has a deep bench.  Co-founders are Eric Becker, who previously started Sterling Partners (private-equity firm) and Caretta Group (a private investment firm); and Avy Stein, who previously served as CEO of Willis Stein & Partners, a private equity firm he co-founded in 1994.

Brock announced last month she’d be retiring from television sometime this month. Don’t be surprised if she takes on a new career designing homes. It’s a passion.

She and Regan have been married since 2011 and each have two children from previous marriages.

PIER GROUP: Dan Gibbons and DeRondal Bevly have been named co-chairs of a new associate board for Navy Pier.

The leadership group of emerging professionals–32 of them–is being formed as the nonprofit Navy Pier expands its programming.

Gibbons is vice president of Tur Partners, an investment and advisory firm. The company was started by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who remains board chairman.

Gibbons also is director of symposia for the Academy of Achievement (a national networking group) and serves on the boards of the Magnificent Mile Association, the New Coast Foundation and the Chicago Fire Department Foundation.

Bevly is the founder and managing director of RubyRose Strategies, a communications firm that advises small- and mid-size companies. He’s also a fellow with Leadership Greater Chicago fellow, which cultivates civic leaders.


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