Alumni Connections - No. 92 - March 2012

Alumni Connections is a sampling of alumni news. Alumni on the Move, Alumni to Know, CEO Watch: Taking the Lead, and CEO Watch: Making Headlines share news gleaned from media online and in print, including news submitted to Chicago Booth Magazine. Submit information about yourself or fellow alumni to

Alumni on the Move

Darin Facer, ’06, has been promoted to managing director from director in the enterprise improvement unit. The restructuring, consulting, and financial advisory firm is headquartered in Southfield, Michigan.

BPL Global, Ltd.:
William Downey, ’78,
has been appointed to the board of directors. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company offers automation software and services to electric utility companies. Downey was president and chief operating officer of Great Plains Energy and president and chief operating officer of Kansas City Power & Light Company.

Murli Buluswar, ’01,
has been named chief science officer, a newly created position. The insurance broker is based in New York.

David Broecker, ’89,
has joined as president, research models and services. The company provides research for such industries as pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, agrochemical, and chemical, as well as universities, government, and other research organizations. It is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Jennifer O’Connell, ’96,
has joined as director, account development. The integrated branding, marketing, and public relations agency has offices in Newton, Massachusetts, and San Antonio, Texas.

Headwaters Incorporated:
Grant Gufstafson, ’86,
has been appointed to the board of directors. Based in South Jordan, Utah, the company makes light building and heavy construction materials. Gufstafson is a private equity senior advisor in the industrial products market.

Scott George, ’80,
has been named senior vice president, corporate development. Based in Batesville, Indiana, the company makes and sells business-to-business products and services for a variety of industries.

Illinois Hospital Association Quality Care Institute:
Derek Robinson, ’07,
has been appointed executive director. Headquartered in Naperville, Illinois, the association represents and advocates for 200 Illinois hospitals and health systems and their patients.

Lubin School of Business at Pace University:
John James, ’57 (XP-13),
has been named inaugural executive director of the school’s new Center for Global Governance, Reporting and Regulation. James is a professor at Lubin, which is located in New York.

Mediterranean Oil & Gas Plc:
Jake Ulrich, ’83,
has been named nonexecutive director of the board. The oil and gas producer, explorer, and developer is based in Rome, Italy, and registered in London. Ulrich was senior energy advisor to Och Ziff Management Europe Ltd.

MLV & Co.:
Michael Peterson, ’02 (EXP-7),
has joined as managing director and senior energy research analyst. The boutique investment bank is based in New York.

Nuveen Multi-Strategy Income and Growth Fund:
Douglas Baker, ’02,
has been named to the portfolio management team. Baker also serves as portfolio manager for the Nuveen Preferred Securities Fund and related preferred security strategies. Nuveen Investments is based in Chicago.

Parsons Brinckerhoff:
Richard Smith, ’78,
has joined as senior supervising estimator in the San Francisco, California, office. Smith is serving as lead estimator for the state’s high-speed train project. Headquartered in New York, the infrastructure company offers strategic consulting, planning, engineering, and construction management organization.

People’s Merchant Plc:
Ramanan Govindasamy, ’09 (AXP-8),
has been appointed to the board as a nonexecutive director. The financial institution is involved in leasing, real estate, and corporate and trade finance. It is based in Sri Lanka. Govindasamy is managing director and CEO of Capital TRUST Financial Management and Capital TRUST Wealth Management.

Piedmont Henry Hospital:
Charles Scott, ’75,
has been named to the board of directors. The hospital is located in Stockbridge, Georgia. Scott is president and CEO of the hospital, which changed its name from Henry Medical Center on January 1.

Christina Liu, MBA ’80, PhD ’86,
has been appointed finance minister by the nation’s premier. Liu previously served as head of the country’s Council for Economic Development.

John Snyder, ’00,
, has joined as vice president of product management. The company provides customer service for governments, businesses, and colleges and universities. It is based in Woodridge, Illinois.

Alumni to Know

Wahl & Case, a recruitment firm, has won the top prize at the Japan Headhunter Awards. At the awards ceremony, Michael Case, AB ’99, MBA ’10 (AXP-9), was named MVP in the internet industry on behalf of his firm’s Internet and eCommerce practice, according to a December 22 PRLog press release. Case is managing director at the Tokyo-based firm. Case writes that his firm was one of the sponsors of the Economist’sJapan Summit, which drew economists, academics, and 200 of the region’s top CEOs.

Gul Chotrani, ’08 (AXP-7), was interviewed about photos he took of the Omo people in Ethiopia for a January 23 blog post on the Leica website. His journey there was also discussed in the January issue of Conde Nast Traveler. In the blog, Chotrani explained why an investment banker such as he would want to photograph indigenous people in a traditional culture. “Like most curious people I have innate interests or passions of a deeply personal nature,” Chotrani said. “Perhaps mine revolved around design and aesthetics, but I never was able to pursue them in the early part of my life for various reasons.

Michael Holmes, ’08, made a satisfying career leap from private equity giant Carlyle Group to working as vice president for his father-in-law’s chain of tire and auto stores. His business success is discussed in a January 8 profile in the Washington Post. “I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to build a business,” Holmes said of the career switch he made five years ago. Holmes put all the stores under a single brand, Virginia Tire and Auto, and spent $1 million to automate them under one computer network. He also bought the land that housed three of the stores as a real estate investment. The chain boasts 403 employees and $67 million inrevenue, the article said. Holmes’s father-in-law Myron "built this up, and now we want to take it to the next level," Holmes said in the newspaper article.

What has happened to the Chicago Booth class of 2001, who survived two financial crashes and lived to tell about it? At her 10-year class reunion, Megan McArdle, ’01, got the scoop on classmates’ ups and downs and wrote about it for the January/February issue of The Atlantic. “The good news is that most of my classmates seem to have landed somewhere safe, warm, and in the workforce, which should reassure recent graduates wondering if their life is over,” McArdle writes. “Less happily, that somewhere isn’t really where many expected to end up; reality has taken us down a peg or nine.” In the article, Julie Morton, associate dean of Career Services and Corporate Relations at Booth, confirms that McArdle’s class and the one following it were hit harder than others before or after, because of massive layoffs in the financial sector during their careers’ first years. McArdle also cites figures from Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, who reported that between 2007 and 2009 the share of adjusted gross income that went to the top 1 percent dropped from 23.5 percent to 17.6 percent—the largest two-year drop since 1928-30. On January 12, McArdle and Kaplan both appeared on an NPR program, a panel discussion on the role of private equity firms in the US economy, in light of the political debate surrounding presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s background at Bain Capital.

Power2Switch, a website that lets consumers choose where they want to buy electricity, is playing in Peoria. “We believe that folks should have full flexibility in choosing their power source,” Phil Nevels, ’10, chief operating officer and cofounder of Power2Switch, said in a January 30 article in the Peoria (IL) Journal Star. “One of the problems with municipal deals is that they take time, sometimes up to a year. You can start saving today by selecting your own supplier.”

The Australian Financial Review discusses the career of Stephen Penman, ’78, and reviews his book, Accounting for Value. The January 24 article says, “Investors looking for a fresh perspective on how to make money in the stock market during these troubled times ought to read the latest book by Stephen Penman, the Australian accounting expert from Queensland who is now an Ivy League professor.” The book “not only restores your faith in the importance of accounting and balance sheets, it puts the knife into some dangerously misleading accounting practices widely used by banks and insurance companies.”

Young entrepreneurs are constantly working and when they’re not, they tend to be thinking of new business ideas, said a January 23 article in Crain’s Chicago Business. Entrepreneurs “can't help it,” said C. J. Przybl, ’11, CFO of BodyShopBids Inc, a website that allows car owners to seek competitive bids from local body shops by uploading photos of the car damage. “You're always thinking of something,” said Przybl.

StrongMail continues to attract clients, most recently adding to its list of users of its cloud-based email marketing services, according to a January 17 article on Yahoo! Finance. A team of Booth students, finalists in the 2003 New Venture Challenge, have been credited in the past with developing the business plan that enabled StrongMail to attract financing. One of them, Rita Ravinda, ’04, is the former director of finance at StrongMail Systems. StrongMail was recently selected by Forrester Research, Inc. as one of six email marketing providers “best-suited for enterprise marketers,” according to a January 24 PRWeb article.

Honeywell vice president for renewable energy and chemicals Jim Rekoske, ’10 (XP-79), talked about the biofuel business in the November 7 issue of Fast Company. “We’ve been in the industry for 97 years, and we’re very good at knowing how to make the right fuels for the right specifications,” he said. “We transform natural oils to look exactly like the petroleum-based fuels of today. Our fuel can come from camelina, which is grown in dry-land wheat rotation. Nature provides the energy to create the feedstock—we just have to nudge it in the right direction. With a single feedstock, we can make fuel for the military, commercial aviation, trucks, and cars. It’s challenging to get the whole value chain—agriculture, chemistry, logistics—to work together. We’re not going to change over from petroleum anytime soon, but there will be other solutions too.”

China’s housing market bubble is about to burst, which would lower the country’s growth rate, said Shawn Tully, ’73, in a January 23 article he wrote for CNN Money. Tully is senior editor-at-large. “The housing frenzy has driven prices so high, so fast, that a crash on the scale of the real estate collapse in Japan in the 1990s is a virtual certainty,” Tully wrote. “And China’s already exaggerated official growth rate could take a pounding, all the way to the zone of the unthinkable, into the low single digits.”

CEO Watch: Taking the Lead

Eric Hofer, ’04 (EXP-9)
Interim CEO
Sunovia Energy Technologies, Inc.

The clean-tech lighting company is based in Sarasota, Florida. Hofer was a member of the board of directors.

Patricia Kampling, ’91
CEO, President, and Chair
Alliant Energy

Kampling’s appointment takes effect April 1. The electric and natural gas utility company is based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Glen Senk, ’80
David Yurman, Inc.

The fine jewelry and luxury timepiece company is based in New York. Senk had previously been CEO of Urban Outfitters.

CEO Watch: Making Headlines

Jake Crampton, ’89

Crampton spoke at the World Congress 6th Annual Leadership Summit on Health Care Supply Chain Management. His company works to improve business operations and supply chains for health care companies. In his presentation, Crampton discussed partnering with an outsource document processing company to help UPMC, a global health enterprise, according to a January 24 PRWeb newswire article.

Dean Curnutt, ’96
Founder and CEO
Macro Risk Advisors

Macro Risk Advisors has founded the Macro Risk Advisors Scholarship Fund at Booth, a two-year scholarship of $25,000 per year rewarded to a Full-Time MBA Program student. “Chicago Booth is one of the country’s foremost business schools with a best-in-class student body,” Curnutt said in a January 21 article in Investment Weekly News. Curnutt had received the Citibank Award for best performance in finance as a student. “My two years at Booth provided an unmatched foundation for my professional pursuits, generating the insight and network to launch an independent risk advisory firm,” he said.


Patrick Doyle, ’88
President and CEO
Domino’s Pizza

Rather than an autocratic style of running his franchise, Doyle uses a more democratic style, he told Blue Mau Mau in a January 16 article. “I think the value of having built trust in the system is that you can actually move far faster,” Doyle said. “I think a lot of people look at it the other way. They (autocratic leaders of franchise chains) think that if they just make decisions, announce them and move forward, it’s more time efficient. But you tend to get far more resistance, which ends up ultimately meaning that the system moves far more slowly. If the relationship is there and the trust is there, I think it gives the system the ability to move far faster.”

Seyi Fabode, ’10

The website that helps consumers switch to cheaper sources of electricity has been drawing lots of press for its cofounders, CEO Fabode, and chief operating officer Philip Nevels. (See Alumni to Know.) Nevels discussed the growth of alternative power sources. “Awareness of the choice option has come a long way. In early 2010, the penetration rate of the alternative companies was about 2.5 percent,” a January 29 article in the Galesburg (IL) Register-Mail paraphrased Nevels. “Now, it’s around 5 percent, expected to be 10­­–15 percent by the end of the year.”

The company also made the Illinois Technology Association “Spotlight,” which ran January 24. Fabode proffered reasons why his company’s service should gain popularity. “We fully understand the user experience and have factored this into providing the most convenient end-to-end service for electricity price comparison,” Fabode told the ITA. “Additionally, Power2Switch uses electricity usage data collected from our customers to help them track their savings, understand their carbon footprint, and optimize their energy use over time.”

Fabode also appeared on the Green Sense radio show on January 15.

Phillip Leslie, ’09
Founder and CEO

The company made the Illinois Technology Association "Spotlight" on January 3. "What really makes ProOnGo special from the other 1,000 expense tracking programs out there is our expense-approval system," Leslie said in the article. "With no other service are you able to pull up your entire sales team’s expenses on your mobile device, view their receipt images, make changes to the expenses as well as approve or deny the expenses."

Joe Mansueto, AB ’78, MBA ’80
Morningstar, Inc.

Mansueto, Kevin Willer, ’10 (XP-79), and New World Ventures LLC Founder J. B. Pritzker have established the Firestarter Fund, a $5.7 million fund for investment in new tech companies, primarily those based in Chicago, said a January 31 article in Crain’s Chicago Business. Another of the fund founders, Matt Moog, announced the new fund on his blog at Built in Chicago. The early stage investment fund has the backing of 42 digital founders and CEOs, the blog said. Built in Chicago grew off the momentum begun by Hyde Park Angels, Excelerate Labs, University of Chicago New Venture Challenge, Illinois Technology Association and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, the blog said. Hyde Park Angels was launched by the Polsky Center and several XP alumni.

Michael Polsky, ’89
President and CEO

The alternative energy company is getting a boost from GE, which has agreed to supply 23 megawatts of solar equipment to Invenergy, according to a January 18 Wall Street Journal article. Equipment will be used at Invenergy’s Grand Ridge solar site in LaSalle County, Illinois, which is on its way to becoming the largest solar farm in the Midwest, the article said. “As we look to continue the expansion of our clean energy portfolio, advancements in technology have made solar a more competitive solution,” Polsky told WSJ. “Having installed over 1,500 of GE's wind turbines at projects across the United States, integrating GE’s solar technology is a natural fit.”
Commonwealth Edison customers are expected to begin using energy from the Grand Ridge site starting in July, said a January 18 Chicago Tribune article. The solar farm won a bid from the Illinois Power Agency to sell the energy to ComEd, part of a strategy to help the state meet renewable energy goals required under state law. “Renewable plants don't just happen,” Polsky told the Trib. “There has to be a demand.”

Dhiraj Rajaram, ’03
Founder and CEO
Mu Sigma

Having raised $108 million—believed to be one of the largest investments in the data analytics field—Rajaram’s company plans to buy back shares from existing shareholders, according to a January 23 article in the Chicago Sun-Times. The data crunching company intends to accelerate its growth, the article said.

Ashish Rangnekar, ’11

Based in Chicago, BenchPrep is an online source of textbooks and test preparation. Rangnekar talked about the advantage of online studying in a January 31 article in Crain’s Chicago Business. “With a traditional questions-and-answer section in a textbook, typically you have questions (at the end of a chapter) and then the answers are at the end of the book, and you have to go back and forth to figure out what you did right or wrong. But the best way to (offer a Q&A) is to build an interactive quiz module that will both ask and answer the question and give the student feedback. We have a lot of analytics around those content modules with graphs and charts to really help students understand the concepts they are good at or not so good at. And because we understand their strengths and weaknesses much better, we are then able to recommend a different course, so if someone studying for the MCAT is not doing as well at biology as other students, we can then recommend an MCAT biology course by a different publisher.”

A January 5 article noted, “BenchPrep is the future of the ‘education anywhere’ movement.”

Uzi Shmilovici, ’11
Future Simple

The Chicago-based company has released the first small-business Customer Relationship Management app in the Android market, said a January 30 Tech Crunch Europe article. Future Simple is raising a second round of funding, the article said.

Kevin Willer, ’10 (XP-79)
Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center

Chicago Tonight ran a piece on 1871, the name of the 50,000-square-foot tech center expected to open this spring at the Merchandise Mart. The tech center will be run by Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. In the broadcast, Willer, in a hardhat as construction workers prepare the space behind him, said that the tech center will be for “digital start-ups in the early stages.” Willer said there was a lot of demand for a space where digital entrepreneurs could sit and work together “but we didn’t see a lot of supply.” The tech center will be named after the year of the Great Chicago Fire, representing the great city that emerged after the disaster. (See also: Joe Mansueto, AB ’78, MBA ’80, CEO Watch, Making Headlines.)

Submit information about yourself or fellow alumni to