Twice last year, Chicago businessman Yusef Jackson — a son of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and brother-in-law of Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) — went to City Hall seeking taxpayer money for a new home for his Budweiser beer distributorship west of downtown, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times and interviews show.
At first, Jackson asked for a $4.2 million city subsidy in the form of tax-increment financing. That’s according to the application he submitted to City Hall in March 2011, shortly before Mayor Richard M. Daley left office.
On his second application, filed in August 2011, three months after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was sworn in, Jackson slashed the amount of taxpayer money he wanted. This time, he said he needed only $1 million from City Hall to help pay for the $5.1 million renovation of a vacant, two-story building he owns at 401 N. Ogden.
So far, Jackson hasn’t gotten any money from the city for the project. His applications “were never completed / pursued,” according to Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for the city Department of Housing and Economic Development.
Jackson won’t comment, first asking that questions be submitted in writing, then declining to answer them.
But he’d still like the city’s financial backing, according to Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who says, “He’s trying.”
Jackson — whose sister-in-law, as a member of the Chicago City Council, would be asked to vote on any request for a city tax subsidy — has begun construction work on the new home for his beer-delivery business. But the job site has been hit with pickets protesting his use of non-union labor, according to Burnett, whose ward includes the property on Ogden.
City Hall is rebuilding the street, curbs and sidewalks on the south side of the property — a $2.8 million project that city officials say was in the works before Jackson bought the building.
Jackson, then 28, bought the Budweiser distributorship with an older brother, Jonathan Jackson, in 1998. That was 16 years after their father led a national boycott of the nation’s largest brewery over its lack of minority-owned beer distributorships.
Their purchase price was never made public, but the Jacksons got a $6.7 million loan to pay Anheuser-Busch Co. — Budweiser’s corporate parent — for a warehouse and equipment on Goose Island.
Anheuser-Busch had spent $10.5 million to build the North Side warehouse and got a $2.6 million tax subsidy toward that from City Hall.
Seven years later, in late 2005, Jackson sold the Goose Island property to the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. for $10.15 million, paying a $400,000 fee in connection with the sale to The John Buck Company, records show.
Jackson, whose brother no longer has a stake in the beer distributorship, which operates under the name River North Sales & Service, then moved the business to 1101 W. Lake. He paid nearly $1.9 million for the office space, which had a brief role in the public spotlight when it was mentioned during the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Realtor Sean Conlon developed those offices, selling two floors for $1.36 million in 2004 to a company owned by businessman Kevin Flynn and attorney Brian Hynes, a one-time associate of Tony Rezko, who later went to prison for influence-peddling under Blagojevich. As part of the 2004 sale, Patti Blagojevich, the then-governor’s real estate broker-wife, was paid a $40,000 commission even though, according to court testimony, she didn’t do any work on the deal.
Flynn and Hynes later sold one of the floors to Jackson for his company’s offices, and Jackson bought additional space in the building. Jackson’s beer trucks park at a warehouse in Bridgeport.
Jackson’s company has outgrown the space on Lake Street, according to his filings with the city last year, his beer business booming with the growing popularity of craft beers. Jackson originally was limited to selling only Anheuser-Busch products in a territory bound by Lake Michigan and Harlem Avenue, Irving Park and Roosevelt Road. But now he distributes a variety of craft beers as well, including the Goose Island brand, throughout the six-county metropolitan area.
Jackson bought the building on Ogden for $2 million last year from Plaza Bank, which gave the beer distributorship a $1.6 million mortgage. Jackson told the city the new home for his beer business would include offices, a marketing center, a bar, a test kitchen and “a small home-brewing facility enabling the creation of in-house craft beer for training purposes.”