World Business Chicago Vice Chairman Michael Sacks and former Commerce Secretary William Daley leave Sunday on a six-day business mission to China, Sacks' first official foreign trip as a top adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Sacks said that he and Daley will pay their own way to China while World Business Chicago, a nonprofit that acts as the city's economic development agency, will cover the travel costs for two staff members, including one from the mayor's office.
There, they'll take in a CSO concert and co-host a reception for about 75 people, including tour operators, and China-based alumni of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.
Sacks said he asked for Daley's help in selling Chicago to foreign officials, specifically the Chinese, after the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama returned home from Washington last year. Sacks said that was months before Daley said he was considering a run for governor in 2014.
"His gravitas, his stature as former commerce secretary and former chief of staff have made the quality of this trip better than anything I could have done myself," Sacks said. "I would not have been able to secure these meetings without him."
Daley and Sacks are expected to meet with 30-plus corporate executives, including the CEO of Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific and billionaire Chinese entrepreneur Lu Guanqiu, whose son-in-law, Pin Ni, runs Elgin-based auto parts maker Wanxiang America Corp.; six Chinese officials, including the acting mayor of Beijing and China's commerce minister, Chen Deming; and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke.
Sacks' role with World Business Chicago is a volunteer position. His day job is CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management. The investment firm is known as a hedge fund of funds because its primary business is to invest in multiple hedge funds on behalf of large investors, such as pension funds, corporations and sovereign wealth funds.
Sacks frequently travels abroad for his work, often adding city-related sales pitches to his itineraries. This, however, is his first foreign trip focused on his work at World Business Chicago.
Spertus changes name
The Spertus Institute this week will tweak its name — and with it, its identity — as part of an ongoing effort to recover from an unfortunately timed decision to open a new building on the eve of the financial crisis.
The institute, which has been a pillar of Jewish culture in Chicago since 1924, will now be called the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. The institute also announced that its programming for children and families will be cut for the foreseeable future in favor of new academic offerings for people working at nonprofits.
"During the past 31/2 years, we eliminated a $3.8 million operating deficit, largely by dramatically reducing our programmatic footprint," said Hal Lewis, the institute's president, who took over in July 2009. "So I didn't have the money to go and get branding assistance. But I was convinced we had a branding challenge — because when I first became president I spent a good solid four months on a listening tour, in which people told me, 'Oh, yeah, I know something about Spertus,' but there was uncertainty about the work we did."
A grant from the Harvey L. Miller Foundation paid for most of the rebranding effort, which an outside consulting firm led.
"I should say I'm generally skeptical of consultants," Lewis said. "But they taught me something elegantly simple: Spend more time talking about the why and less time on the how. We know the enormous array of programs we offer ... but we never said why that's important. ... (The answer is) we believe that a learning Jewish community is a vibrant Jewish community. It is the historic experience of the Jewish people that learning doesn't stop at adolescence."
The institute has about 400 students in degree and certificate programs, from a one-day certificate in grant writing to a doctorate in Jewish studies, which can take up to 10 years to complete. The institute also offers public lectures on politics, arts and culture as well as museum-style exhibits.
Spertus plans to offer new leadership concentrations within its master's degree programs aimed at youth workers, camp counselors and early childhood teachers. It also plans to create programs in social entrepreneurship and lay-leader training. Lewis said also he may eliminate one of Spertus' existing education degrees, but these changes are not final and will not be announced until the spring.
"We were never best at early childhood education," Lewis said. "The synagogues are far better at that ... So this is not a retreat from one of our historic strong suits."
The seeds of the long-running overhaul of Spertus can be traced to the November 2007 opening of its building, an iconic glass sculpture at 610 S. Michigan Ave.
Lewis said so many assumptions about the building failed to materialize, such as revenue from room rentals. Nonprofits also heavily cut professional development funds during the recession, which, in turn, lowered enrollment because students were no longer able to get help paying for their master's degrees.
However, rentals and other economic indicators are beginning to reverse. The falling stock market hurt Spertus' program endowment, slicing it to about $6 million, and its building endowment to about $12 million. Those funds are now at about $7 million and about $17 million, respectively, Lewis said.
Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said his organization is assisting Spertus with fundraising. He said without the branding and other program changes Lewis is making, Spertus would be "treading water."
"The name change is a manifestation of resetting goals and is a positive thing," he said. "People have to better understand what you're attempting to do."