With Desiree Rogers‘ departure from Johnson Publishing Co., Linda Johnson Rice loses a corporate confidante — though the two remain close friends.
That’s interesting given the tumultuous seven years they had trying to revive their media business. When Rice hired Rogers, her pal now for nearly 30 years, some observers didn’t think the friendship would last.
“We’re on solid ground,” Rice told me this morning, and Rogers confirms that, saying she wishes Rice and “JPC all the best.”
The two have been through a lot since Rogers became CEO and Rice was chairman emeritus. Like all media organizations, they’ve tried every way to cut costs and boost revenue. They sold the corporate headquarter building and put photo archives up for sale. Last year, Ebony and Jet were sold to CVG Group, based in Texas.
Rice now serves as CEO of Ebony Media Operations and of Johnson Publishing, which counts Fashion Fair Cosmetics as a subsidiary. Rice says she’s in the process of looking for Chicago office space for those staffs.
She’ll likely be traveling more, too, as Ebony’s editorial operations are moving to New York and Los Angeles, where sister publication Jet is produced. Ebony’s sales, marketing and production teams stay in Chicago.
“Chicago is my bedrock. It’s the foundation of Johnson Publishing,” assured Rice, whose late father founded the business. “I love the city.”
While Rogers won’t be around as work buddy, Rice has another friend in CVG.
She and Willard Jackson, CVG’s vice chairman, have been close for more than three years.
He travels to Chicago and she visits him in Texas. Jackson sat next to Rice when the Hyde Park Art Center recently honored her, and the two have been photographed arm-in-arm.
Jackson didn’t return a request to talk. And Rice declines to dish about her personal life. She’s adamant about keeping a strict line between business and friendship. That may be what allowed her and Rogers to remain friends even in challenging business times.
$3 million raised for Art Institute
Big names came out over the weekend to raise $3 million for the Art Institute of Chicago.
The black-tie gala featured insurance magnate Pat Ryan and his wife, Shirley, as honorary co-chairs. The two have donated and raised millions of dollars for the museum over the years. The Modern Wing’s learning center is named in their honor.
Ryan is chairman and CEO of Ryan Specialty Group and was a founder of Aon Corp. He recently was named to Forbes’ billionaire list.
Some notable names at the gala were Rush Street Gaming Chairman Neil Bluhm, Hyatt Corp. Executive Chairman Tom Pritzker, Northern Trust CEO Rick Waddell, Choose Chicago senior adviser Ken Bennett (aka Chance the Rapper‘s dad), auctioneer Leslie Hindman and Les Coney, who counts Ryan as a mentor. Coney worked for Ryan at Aon before moving to Mesirow Financial, where he is an executive vice president.
Rezko attorney’s legal maneuver
William Ziegelmueller has joined Schiff Hardin law firm as a partner in its white-collar litigation practice.
Ziegelmueller’s name doesn’t roll off the tongue, but his client list does.
He represented Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who was convicted in 2008 of using his clout in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich‘s administration to attempt to extort money from companies seeking state business.
Ziegelmueller leaves Stetler & Rotert, a boutique litigation firm, where he’s been defending clients involved in cases involving an alphabet soup list of agencies, including SEC, IRS, CFTC, OCC, ICE, FDA, and USDA.
Residents swing at fence
It turns out community meetings held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel aren’t any less heated than other meetings around town.
Park planners faced a boisterous crowd of residents the other day over renovation plans for Seneca Park, just across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art.
At issue was a fence. The city offered a design that showed one side of the park open — no fence — and another design with a 4-foot fence.
Planners have called the ideas aesthetically pleasing.
But residents didn’t buy it. They voiced worries about “vagabonds” making a mess, children possibly running out into the street and anyone being able to jump into the park.
“I could climb a 4-foot-tall fence. And I’m not a young gang member. I’m old,” said Diane Weinberg, who lives in Water Tower Place across the street.
Her neighbor, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, said “fear” grips many residents she meets in the hallways or lobby of the building.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), a man who knows his voters, heard them loud and clear.
He assured residents a 6-foot fence would be put in place and locked nightly.
There were smiles and cheers all around, including from Eli’s Cheesecake President Marc Schulman, who is leading a private $3 million fundraising campaign for the park’s redesign.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.