Two months after Rahm Emanuel became mayor, he stripped political power broker Jeremiah Joyce of a lucrative concessions contract at O’Hare Airport, saying the deal that spanned 19 years had cost the city millions of dollars.
Joyce, a former Chicago alderman and state senator from the 19th Ward, fought Emanuel all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court to try to maintain his stranglehold on concessions at O’Hare’s international terminal — a deal he got under his longtime ally, former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Now, his son is trying to help make sure Emanuel loses, too. Mike “Pickle” Joyce has been on the campaign trail drumming up support for Emanuel’s challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, in the April 7 election.
The Joyces and Garcia haven’t always been allies. As an alderman, Garcia supported Mayor Harold Washington’s re-election in 1987, while Jeremiah Joyce plotted to defeat the city’s first African-American mayor — even considering switching parties to run as a Republican against Washington.
By backing Garcia, Mike Joyce is breaking ranks with the Daleys, his family’s longtime allies, who are supporting Emanuel for mayor.
The elder Joyce acknowledges he wants Emanuel to lose and says he recently went to dinner with Garcia. But he says he has no official role with the Garcia campaign.
“My son Michael is involved in it. I’m not. I’m in Florida,” says Jeremiah Joyce, 72. “If my son wants some advice from me, if Chuy wants some advice from me, I’ll be happy to give it. I wish Chuy the best.
“Would I like to see Emanuel lose? Yeah,” Joyce says.
But he says “it has nothing to do” with losing the O’Hare contract.
“If you’re trying to tie this in, that this thing’s bad feelings over Emanuel, you’re absolutely wrong,” he says. “I could care less.”
Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, also dismisses the idea that payback is driving his Joyce family support.
“The Joyces contacted our campaign earlier this year,” Garcia says. “I hadn’t really met them before until they popped up and wanted to be involved.”
Regarding his dinner with Mike Joyce and Jeremiah Joyce shortly before the Feb. 24 election, Garcia says, “We kept it quite general — how can we maximize the votes in the 19th Ward. I asked, ‘What do you think my chances are?’ [Jeremiah Joyce] thought I had a good shot at the runoff.”
Jeremiah Joyce had a 30 percent stake in Chicago Aviation Partners, which had exclusive control over concessions in the international terminal since 1993. When the deal expired in 2003, Daley allowed Joyce and his partners, including McDonald’s Corp., to continue operating on a month-to-month basis for what turned out to be years, rather than seek new bids.
The O’Hare concession battle began in 2009, when Daley solicited bids that pitted Joyce against two other companies. But the city was slow to act on those proposals, allowing Joyce to hold on to the contract until Emanuel took office in 2011.
Over 19 years, the city collected $58 million from the Joyce partnership, which had sales of $477 million. But Joyce’s payments to the city plummeted 30 percent between 2006 and 2009, when the city took steps to make over the terminal’s concessions by adding new restaurants and shops.
The competition to manage that came down to Chicago Aviation Partners vs. Westfield, the shopping center operator that runs three Chicago area malls. Joyce hired former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine to lobby city officials. Westfield hired lobbyist Tim Dart, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s brother and a close ally of powerful Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th).
Joyce’s company guaranteed the city at least $11.5 million a year — nearly triple what Chicago Aviation Partners had ever paid the city in a single year.
But the Emanuel administration gave the deal to Westfield, which guaranteed the city a minimum of $6 million a year.
Joyce’s guarantee wasn’t realistic, according to an Emanuel administration source who says: “For nearly two decades, CAP fell well short of their own projections, and when the city put the contract out for competitive bid, CAP’s claims in their new bid were again not credible.”
Westfield oversaw a $26 million renovation of the terminal that nearly doubled concession space, which now includes restaurants run by Rick Bayless and Lettuce Entertain You and upscale stores including Michael Kors and Salvatore Ferragamo.
Over the past three years, Westfield’s sales have totaled more than $100 million, with the city getting $15.7 million of that. Last year, the city got $6.5 million — the most it’s ever gotten from the concession rights.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in revenue and customer experience . . . and the difference a professionally run organization can make,” the Emanuel source says.
In August 2011, Chicago Aviation Partners sued City Hall, arguing Emanuel had “an unfair bidding process” for the deal. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear the case after lower courts ruled against the Joyce group.
Joyce says he and his partners would have paid the city $150 million more than Westfield over the life of the 20-year contract, which has a five-year renewal option.
A former cop and Cook County prosecutor, Joyce is called “pugnacious” by Emanuel friend David Axelrod in his new book “Believer: My 40 years in Politics.” Joyce and Daley served together in the Illinois Senate. His South Side political operation was instrumental in Daley’s first successful mayoral election, in 1989. He also helped Devine get elected state’s attorney in 1996.
His son Jeremiah Joyce Jr., 45, was an assistant state’s attorney under Devine between 1999 and 2001, when he became co-owner of the Haagen-Dazs ice cream concession at Navy Pier.
Another son, Dan Joyce, 48, was represented by Devine in a 1989 drug case in which he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in a cocaine ring headed by John Cappas, who also went to prison.
Youngest son Kevin Joyce, 43, was a state representative representing the South Side and southwest suburbs from 2003 to 2010. He now lives in Florida.
Mike Joyce, 47, also was an assistant state’s attorney under Devine. In 2011, then-Gov. Pat Quinn appointed him to the Illinois Labor Relations Board. Joyce resigned after WLS-Channel 7 reported he’d been arrested for disorderly conduct at Gibson’s steakhouse in Rosemont in 2009 and, when he was brought to the police station in the suburb, allegedly made racial slurs. Joyce, a lawyer and boxing coach who is married to Muhammad Ali’s daughter Jamillah, denied making such comments, and the case against him was dropped.
Garcia says he was unaware of the Rosemont incident.
“I don’t condone any behavior of anyone along those lines,” he says, adding he hasn’t seen any racially insensitive behavior from Mike Joyce, who joined him on stage as he celebrated voters putting him into the April 7 runoff against Emanuel.
Garcia later marched with Joyce’s Celtic Boxing Club in the South Side Irish parade along Western Avenue.
Mike Joyce couldn’t be reached for comment.
Garcia says he doesn’t think Jeremiah Joyce’s opposition to Harold Washington will create any problems for his campaign now. “That was back in 1987,” he says.
Garcia says there won’t be any special treatment for the Joyces if he beats Emanuel.
“No, they’re volunteers,” he says. “They’re helping us get signs up. They’re saying things about the campaign. They’re not on staff. They’re not in any policy position.
“They’re like any other supporters. I’m not going to walk into the office with any quid pro quos for anybody.”