Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a Chicago-area manufacturing tycoon and emigrant from India, is among President Donald Trump‘s most outspoken supporters — and largest donors.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of politicians,” says the chairman of AVG Advanced Technologies based in Carol Stream. “You can tell by how they talk. A businessman’s answers are clear and direct. A politician’s answers are fuzzy.”
The president is as clear as a bell to Kumar, whose family has donated about $1.5 million to Trump’s victory fund and $3.5 million to political action committees and the Republican National Committee. Kumar heads the Republican Hindu Coalition, which campaigned across the country for Trump.
Kumar acknowledges Trump’s first few weeks have been rocky but he defends the president’s executive orders, including the controversial travel ban. “It’s a small price to pay in the war with radical Islam,” he says.
The Chicago-area businessman spoke during a phone interview from India, where he was being honored as a global entrepreneur at the annual One Globe Forum.
Kumar hopes to see Pakistan added to any future immigration ban.
“Ultimately, it’s about extreme vetting — even in India,” he says. “What’s the big deal?”
Kumar was 20 when he immigrated to the United States. “It took a month to do all the checks. So now instead of a month, it may take six weeks.”
He earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology before starting AVG.
His son, Vikram Kumar, is the company’s vice chairman. He drew headlines a few years ago when he married a former Miss Earth India. Their three-day wedding in New Zealand was televised.
The elder Kumar was introduced to GOP circles — and Trump — through former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He and Trump have remained friends ever since, and Kumar is an unofficial adviser on issues related to trade with India.
Along with his civic activity, Kumar is known for his love of Bhangra pop music and Bollywood. It’s thanks to his efforts that Bollywood stars performed at Trump’s inauguration.
Joe Perillo wins a round
Score one for Joe Perillo.
A federal judge has ruled the Chicago businessman can keep the “Hotel Chicago” name on his little Near West Side hotel while a suit filed by a competitor under the Marriott Hotel brand moves forward.
Perillo’s “Hotel Chicago” caters to families visiting hospitals in the city’s nearby medical district. A few miles away in River North is the Mariott-branded “Hotel Chicago.” It’s a boutique hotel catering more to tourists and formerly known as Hotel Sax.
Marriott, through LHO Chicago River, has sued Perillo for ownership of the name and filed an injunction to stop its use while the two sides battle in court.
During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras, Perillo’s legal team showed it had a registered trademark on the “Hotel Chicago” moniker. Marriott says it has standing because it’s used the name in advertising for more than two years.
Kocoras didn’t see any harm or confusion in both hotels keeping the same name while the case continues.
Perillo attorney Alain Villeneuve says his client “feels vindicated.”An attorney for LHO (Marriott) didn’t return a call for comment.
R.M. Chin’s notable bash
Ray Chin and his daughter, Eileen Chin, hosted their annual Chinese New Year’s party at Phoenix restaurant in Chinatown.
The event drew a crowd of transportation development officials, colleagues and clients of their R.M. Chin & Associates, a firm that supports development work.
“Everyone who’s anyone in the transportation world is here,” gushed Mae Whiteside, CEO of CKL Engineers.
Among those enjoying dinner, drinks and a traditional New Year’s dragon show were Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who worked with Ray Chin on the Chinatown Community Vision Plan, and Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th), who represents Eileen Chin’s ward.
Cook County Commissioner John Daley was there too.
R.M. Chin got its start in the early 1990s. One of R.M. Chin’s first projects was to repair freight tunnels that had failed during the flood of 1992. The company was credited with finishing the work on time and under budget, which led to a career of municipal work.
It was natural, then, that Gery Chico, who worked in then-Mayor Richard M. Daley‘s office in the ’90s, attended the party.
The firm has played key roles in managing capital improvements at Chicago’s airports, the Illinois Tollway redevelopment program and high-profile restoration projects at Fullerton Avenue beach and the 31st Street harbor.
“People like to come to the party because there’s no real agenda,” says Eileen. “It’s about creating an atmosphere where they can hang with colleagues and friends and not necessarily be ‘on.’ We want them to feel it’s a safe place to go.”
Indeed, Ray greeted me saying, “No politics.”
Did that mean he didn’t want me to write about it? Or talk about it? “Probably both,” said his daughter.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.