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John Rogers (left), David storch (top), Christie Hefner, Sean Conlon. 3

Rogers joins The Gray Lady, plus Storch talks leadership

May 13th, 2018

John Rogers Jr., the founder, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, has been named the New York Times’ board of directors.

It’s a good fit for the The Gray Lady, as the Times is affectionately called–and for Rogers.

The well-regarded Chicago businessman for years was bullish about newspapers. His firm previously invested in Gannett, McClatchy and Lee news services and in the Chicago Tribune (back when the Chandler family owned it and the Los Angeles Times). Rogers approaches investing as a long game and was among those pushing to create more value for Tribune shareholders.

That was in 2006, when no one really knew the extent that advertising revenues would plummet. Chicago billionaire Sam Zell would emerge as a buyer.

Rogers is no longer a newspaper investor but he’s no less passionate.

He served for years on the board of the Knight Foundation, which invests in journalism and the arts.

“To be on a board like that, you learn how important quality journalism is to our country and our world,” Rogers told me. “It’s more important than ever that we have strong, dynamic newspapers in the United States.”

Rogers also serves as a director at Exelon and McDonald’s and tips his hat to Chicago business icons Andy McKenna and Pat Ryan as models of “great governance.”

RELATED: How shareholders impact diversity on America’s corporate boards

New York Times Board Chairman Arthur Sulzberger called Rogers “an accomplished investor, business leader and a dedicated philanthropist whose knowledge and experience will be invaluable to our board.”

Visiting New York for board meetings has another added benefit.

Rogers’ daughter, Victoria, lives there. Though she’s currently studying at Stanford Business School, Rogers expects her to return to New York after graduation.”It’s going to be great to be in the same city with my daughter,” he said.

His appointment to the New York newspaper comes as his ex-wife, Desiree Rogers, also was appointed to a New York corporate board. She serves on the board of MDC marketing company.

Here’s a full list of Chicago African American business leaders who sit on corporate boards.

David Storch

LEADERSHIP LESSONS: Wood Dale-based AAR, the aviation services company, was just named to Forbes’ Best Employers list. So I asked CEO David Storch about bosses he’s had who have influenced him.

First thing, he said, it was his dad–an attorney dedicated to pro bono work and treating people right–who had the greatest impact.

Storch’s first jobs were painting fences for the Long Island school district, where he grew up, and as a caddy. That’s when he met “a successful guy” who hired him to chauffeur clients, Storch said. “It was my first real job. He taught me a lot about discipline–making sure I was on time and that I paid attention to the people in the car.”

It’s a work ethic that stuck.

Storch pursued real estate, but that was a tough business in Manhattan in the 1970s. He landed in Chicago, where he sold ads for a real estate magazine. Then he “met a gal,” Leslie Eichner, whose father founded AAR.

Now Storch heads the company, which employs 4,000 people, primarily aircraft maintenance mechanics. It’s motto is “doing it right.”

Are they ever.

Storch and the Eichners recently donated $1 million toward a revamp at the National Air and Space Museum and to educational programming there.

Storch says he has “a keen interest in building the talent pipeline for the future of aircraft maintenance.”

Sean Conlon

CONLON DOWNSIZING: After selling his Chicago brokerage firm, Sean Conlon has also unloaded his Chicago condo on Cedar Street and a vacation pad designed by Harry Gesner in Malibu.

He’s shopping for new digs–an old home–in his native Ireland. “”My life is so simple now. I’m ready to get to the next level,” he told me.

Conlon isn’t dropping off the U.S. radar anytime soon. His Conlon & Co. merchant bank is still in business “doing lots of advisory work in the states and Europe.” His CNBC show, “The Deed: Chicago,” has been picked up for a second season. And he’s still got his other vacation home in Palm Beach, Fla.

Conlon will stay on the Chicago scene, too, as he owns an apartment on the North Side.

Christie Hefner

BIG FISH SEEKS LITTLE POND: Chicago businesswoman Christie Hefner just hosted a fundraiser for Donna Shalala, the former University of Miami president and Health and Human Services secretary who’s now running for Congress in Florida.

The event was a thank you, of sorts.

“We’ve been friends since she was in the Carter administration, bonding over our mutual interest in politics and women’s rights,” Hefner told me. “As a favor, when she was head of HHS, she came to Chicago for the ground breaking for the CORE Center, whose fundraising I headed up.”

Fast-forward to this year. Hefner and her boyfriend, serial entrepreneur and co-founder Rick Salvadore, were visiting Florida over New Year’s when they dined with Shalala. She revealed her possible run to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“I told her then that if she ran, I would throw a fundraiser for her,” Hefner said.

That happened the first week of May at Hefner’s Chicago home. About 40 people attended, raising more than $60,000. Co-hosts were Discover Financial exec Diane Offerirens, businessman and former presidential Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust. She and Shalala are old friends, too.

Hefner said what resonated most was that someone of Shalala’s stature “was willing to get back in the fray. She’d be a freshman, but she wouldn’t be a rookie.”

Dr. Chance

CALL HIM DR. CHANCE: Chance the Rapper drew raves for a commencement speech he gave over the weekend to graduates of Dillard University, a private, black liberal arts college in New Orleans.

“The highest form of respect that we can pay to the people who came before us, the people who sacrificed for us and gave us everything, is to be better than them,” he told the crowd. “Our parents, grandparents, ancestors sacrificed, not so that we can keep doing the same thing that they were doing but so that we can be better. To simply copy them would be almost an insult to their sacrifice.”

Here are some other “gems,” as he referred to parts of his speech:

Regarding seeing Michael Jackson perform “Billie Jean,” Chance said. “Every spin, turn, crotch grab, moonwalk was perfectly executed. I was pure, 100 percent Michael Jackson in that moment. I copied what he did perfectly.”

And giving a nod to another famous performer, he said, “The greatest performance put on by the greatest performer of all time, and it wasn’t Mike. (It was) Beyonce.”

Chance received an honorary doctorate from the school and I hear Chance’s proud dad, Ken Bennett, an executive with Choose Chicago travel council, was on hand taping it all.

Ken Griffin

POWER PLAYER: In this blog about money and power in Chicago, it’s no surprise that Ken Griffin pops up a lot.

Now comes news that the founder and CEO of Citadel hedge-fund company has been named to Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful People list.

He’s ranked No. 65, just a few notches down from U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and a few slots above Vice President Mike Pence.

It’s no wonder he’s courted by so many politicos in Chicago.

The Segals

WILD ABOUT GEORG: Gordon and Carole Segal, the founders of Crate & Barrel are among notable names helping fund an exhibition by the Georg Jensen design company at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Georg Jensen is a global luxury brand that designs and manufactures jewelry, watches and high-end housewares–think silverware.

“We’re happy to have played a part in it by introducing the AIC to our numerous Danish connections in the design field and other collectors of Jensen,” Gordon told me in an email, adding,  “Jensen by the way is the oldest silversmith in the world still making products for dining and serving.”

Other big-name sponsors include Neil Bluhm; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Robert and Diane Levy; Ann and Samuel Mencoff; Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal; Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel; Tom and Margot Pritzker; Anne and Chris Reyes; Betsy Bergman Rosenfield and Andrew Rosenfield; and Cari and Michael Sacks.

The exhibit runs June 22 through Sept. 9.


COMMON TAKES ‘EM BY SURPRISE: Recording artist Common surprised attendees at a recent gathering for Chicago United by giving an impromptu performance of “The Day Women Took Over” from his 2016 album “Black America Again.”

It brought the otherwise staid crowd of 250 to its collective feet.

Common also chatted with Gloria Castillo, president and CEO of Chicago United, about civil rights, how to create future leaders and empowering women and youth.

The Chicago music artist said he finds inspiration in the beliefs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the writing of author Maya Angelou and the bravery of  free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Parkland students. And, of course, he gave a nod to all the women in his life, including his mom, grandmother, godmother, auntie and daughter.

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3 Responses to Rogers joins The Gray Lady, plus Storch talks leadership

  1. D. Clancy says:

    Common is also starring in The Tale, an important movie that was purchased by HBO at the Sundance Festival, and it will soon be showing on that channel.

  2. Pingback: Robservations: WGN Radio is on the move — 18 stories up - Robert Feder

  3. Pingback: Quest for Amazon Chicago HQ unites Rauner, Emanuel teams

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