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Debra Cafaro, chairman and CEO of Ventas Inc. | Provided photo

Kapos: Chicago CEO buys stake in Penguins

SHARE Kapos: Chicago CEO buys stake in Penguins
SHARE Kapos: Chicago CEO buys stake in Penguins

When the Pittsburgh Steelers clinched an NFL playoff victory late Sunday, there was an audible cheer from Chicago. It was Debra Cafaro, the chairman and CEO of Ventas Inc., a health care real estate investment trust and an S&P 500 company.

She’s a Pittsburgh native and a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In December, Cafaro invested a reported $25 million in the team controlled by billionaire Ron Burkle and hockey great Mario Lemieux and valued by Forbes at $570 million. Cafaro joins “a small universe” of women with financial stakes in pro teams.

“I’ve always had a huge interest in sports. Almost everyone in Pittsburgh is like that. It’s a huge part of who we are and what we talk about,” Cafaro says during an interview in her River North office.

She was 15 when she witnessed the “immaculate reception” during the 1972 playoffs. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass that was nearly intercepted. The ball took a crazy bounce and was caught by Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris, who ran it in for the game-winning touchdown.

See a play like that and you’re a sports fan for life, says Cafaro, who didn’t play organized ball growing up as Title IX rules weren’t yet in effect. She was no less passionate.

She studied at University of Notre Dame and relished the glory that comes when your school wins a national football championship.

After law school at the University of Chicago, Cafaro clerked for a judge in North Carolina and became a fan of the University of North Carolina’s basketball team and then-college star Michael Jordan.

And when she and her husband, former Board of Trade executive Terry Livingston, moved to Chicago in 1983, they scooped up Bulls season tickets and caught all six championship wins.

They’ve seen three NFL Super Bowl championships and attended the London and Vancouver Olympics, where they saw the gold medal hockey game between the United States and Canada.

After closing on the Penguins deal, she took a congratulatory call from Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz. “He’s a great role model.”

Most exciting, says Cafaro, has been celebrating the Penguins ownership with extended Pittsburgh family — first cousins and spouses number about 100. Many gathered on New Year’s Eve to watch the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens in overtime.

That night, Cafaro also received her Penguins Stanley Cup ring. With 300 diamonds (nearly 9 carats), it weighs enough to serve as a small paperweight.

It’s beautiful, but will she wear it? Cafaro paused, saying with a smile, “It’s a treasure.”

Ambassador returning to Chicago

Bruce Heyman, the Chicago businessman serving as U.S. ambassador to Canada, is returning to Chicago with his wife, Vicki.

Ambassador Bruce Heyman and his wife, Vicki, will return to Chicago. | Provided photo

Ambassador Bruce Heyman and his wife, Vicki, will return to Chicago. | Provided photo

Heyman and other envoys around the world were given curt orders to pack up by Jan. 20. Usually, there’s a transition period that allows time for a new administration to name ambassadors before the previous folks depart. But these aren’t usual political times, so Heyman steps down Wednesday.

He and his wife will leave Ottawa and travel before returning to their home in Lincoln Park.

“We consider Chicago home and look forward to our return,” he told me in an email exchange. Before that, he says, “we’re going to take some time reflecting.”

Heyman says he has no commitments businesswise but will use the time off to “assess our next steps.”

Before being named ambassador, Heyman was a partner at Goldman Sachs in Chicago, heading up the private-wealth group that included parts of Canada. It was a plum job but no surprise, given he and his wife were top fundraisers for President Barack Obama.

One thing is for sure, he says, “Going forward, we will not be on the sidelines. We have every intention to be active participants in the future direction of our city, state and country.”

The Heymans expect to visit Canada again, as they developed strong friendships during their three-year assignment, including with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie.

Hey hey, ho ho, here’s how protest songs should go

Mark Caro, left, and Steve Dawson | Provided photo

Mark Caro, left, and Steve Dawson | Provided photo

On the eve of two big demonstrations — in Chicago and in Washington, D.C. — comes a discussion about the origins of protest songs.

Headliners are Steve Dawson and Mark Caro, authors of “Take It to the Bridge: Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You.” The book is meant to inspire regular folks to express themselves through song.

Dawson is lead singer with the band Dolly Varden; Caro is an author and longtime entertainment journalist.

On Jan. 20, they’ll discuss how music can shape society, especially in troubled times.

“Much of our greatest music has come out of challenging times,” Caro says, ticking off periods of music creation from the Civil Rights movement to 1960s and ’70s anti-war movements. “Bob Dylan just won the first-ever songwriter’s Nobel Prize for Literature for a body of work that raged against injustice.”

The free event is at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave.

It comes the day before the Women’s March on Chicago and Women’s March on D.C.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.

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