Leo Melamed is chairman emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and a pioneer in the futures industry.
He’s also a friend and supporter of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A picture of her and Melamed hangs on Melamed’s office wall among many photos of political movers and shakers.
So what a surprise to hear the Chicago businessman offer supportive comments about President Donald Trump, who defeated Clinton in a fierce presidential race.
Melamed gave the keynote address at the State Department’s recent Holocaust Remembrance Day event. It honored the late Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese Consul to Lithuania during World War II. He saved the lives of some 6,000 Jewish refugees by issuing transit visas to Japan, including to 7-year-old Leo Melamed and his family.
The Chicago businessman told the crowd his family’s compelling story of escaping the Holocaust.
He also reflected on how the World Jewish Congress at the time had appealed to the United States “to bomb the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz,” according to a transcript of his speech.
Those requests were denied, he said.
“Even when the Syrians crossed the red line [in 2013] set by President [Barack] Obama and used sarin gas to kill their own citizens, the U.S. did not bomb the chemical facilities to stop the atrocities,” Melamed said.
When the Syrians used sarin gas this year, Trump “instinctively knew the right thing to do. I applaud his decision.”
Later, Melamed again tipped his hat to Trump.
“I’m a friend of Hillary Clinton, and she clearly was my choice,” Melamed told me. “But I have to admit that his (Trump’s) response was admirable and deserved applause and public notice.”
Does that mean Trump’s mug has joined the many political faces smiling from Melamed’s office walls?
“Not yet,” he says.
Bobins has a lot to crow about
Influential Chicago banker Norm Bobins has a lot to crow about.
Investors will vote in a few weeks on the pending sale of PrivateBank to CIBC, based in Toronto. It’s the kind of deal that’s sure to elevate PrivateBank’s stature in the banking community. But don’t expect big changes in management in Chicago if the deal is consummated.
Bobins, who is chairman of The PrivateBank and Trust Co., has been asked to continue on the board along with some other directors and CEO Larry Richman.
The cash-and-stock deal is valued at $4.9 billion or $60.92 a share.
This is just the latest bank deal orchestrated in part by Bobins. He led LaSalle Bank a decade ago when it was bought up by Bank of America.
He’s not collecting bank deals, though Bobins does know something about collecting. It’s his passion.
His downtown office showcases an array of art, books, golf markers and little ceramic houses from KLM airlines that he’s picked up over the years.
He’s also the proud owner of a complete collection of art pieces sent out yearly by real estate developer Sam Zell.
“When I travel, I like to bring something back as a memento of the trip,” he told me. “So if you look around the office, you’ll see some strange stuff.”
Like the colorful collection of roosters — paper-mache, metal and painted works.
Bobins has been collecting things since he was a child. He started with stamps and it evolved to art and books.
“I just wish to hell I had my comic books,” Bobins said of the one collection he let get away.
$3 million raised for CPS gardens
Kimbal Musk, the philanthropist brother of billionaire Elon Musk, drew a crowd in Chicago the other day for an event that raised $3 million to build gardens in 200 Chicago Public Schools.
That’s halfway to a $6 million goal set by Kimbal Musk and The Kitchen Community. It’s a nonprofit he co-founded in Colorado that builds Learning Gardens in schools across the country. Chicago is its largest network and growing.
“If we can reach 200, Chicago will be the largest school garden community in the world,” he told me. “It’s ambitious.”
With such high-profile donors at his side, it’s certainly doable.
Among the big donors was Antonio Gracias, the founder of Chicago-based Valor Equity Partners and one of Musk’s closest friends.
Gracias also sits on the board of Tesla Motors, founded by Elon Musk. No word yet on whether Elon Musk was a donor, but the Musk Foundation gives large annual donations to invest in Learning Gardens.
Among the notables at the event were Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule, and their good friends GCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks (an investor of Sun-Times’ owner Wrapports LLC) and his wife, Cari, and Flexpoint Ford founder Don Edwards and his wife, Anne. “I Need a Dollar” singer Aloe Blacc also attended.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.