President and Chief Executive Officer
Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative
Ghian Foreman, ’01, president and CEO of the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, has had a lifelong passion for developing underserved urban areas. From a young age, he was learning firsthand about the real estate business. Growing up in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, not far from the University of Chicago campus, Foreman helped his parents, both lawyers, manage rental properties. He balanced school with a long list of chores and work. At age 17, he bought and rehabbed his first home.
Foreman brought his business acumen to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, earning a bachelor of science in business administration. After college, he worked at a marketing and advertising firm, as a consultant at Accenture, and in the finance department for the House of Blues chain of concert halls and restaurants.
But Foreman had big ambitions, and he took them to Chicago Booth, where he was a LEAD facilitator and participated in the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge. At graduation, he received the Dean’s Award of Distinction.
“It felt like a place that I can truly call my alma mater, because I really felt it early, even before I was a student,” Foreman said. “I felt that it was calling me.” The power of the Booth network drew him in: he grew up playing basketball and visiting campus. He began to imagine the possibilities after, as a kid, he met a group of Booth students who told him what an MBA was, and what the University of Chicago was about. “It really made me feel special,” he said. When he applied to business school several years later, one of those Booth students wrote him a recommendation letter.
After serving as vice president of strategic acquisitions at HSBC, where he oversaw more than $3 billion in acquisitions, Foreman returned to his first passion: real estate development. Partnering with NBA star Chris Webber, he established Maktub Development, a real estate development firm focused on inner cities. Foreman was responsible for $30 million in investments and development in traditionally underserved urban markets throughout the United States, including projects in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago.
In 2010, Foreman became executive director of the nonprofit Greater Southwest Development Corporation, which works to improve the quality of life in southwest Chicago through marketing vacant properties and helping existing businesses expand or increase profitability. At GSDC, Foreman was an inspiration and rallying point for neighborhoods hit hard by the subprime mortgage mess and its aftereffects.
In 2019, Foreman became the president and CEO of Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative. The group works to develop and support South Side communities through a focus on commercial-corridor expansion, sustainable housing, and workforce development.
Foreman’s business philosophy includes a respect for the needs of the community and focuses on developing real estate in the area where he grew up. “It’s really important to show positive images about the South Side of Chicago,” Foreman said. “Not just [to counter] what we hear on the news—the violence—but to show the good things that are happening: the good people, the good stories that are happening in the community.”
Outside of his day job, Foreman redevelops abandoned properties with Washington Park Development Group LLC, a firm focused on inner-city real estate development. WPDG is helping to convert historic buildings while also acquiring dozens of foreclosures to rehab on the South Side as part of Chicago’s neighborhood stabilization program.
In 2016, Foreman won the PrivateBank Norman Bobins Leadership Award, sponsored by one of the country’s leading organizations supporting community development. He is a vocal supporter of opportunities that will bring business and growth to the South Side. In 2018, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Foreman president of the Chicago Police Board, the city’s civilian oversight agency for police accountability.
“Booth provided me with a framework to make decisions, a foundation that I could build upon to be able to make good choices,” he said. “Sometimes it is a very specific framework, such as the outside impacts model that we used in the New Venture Strategy class—and other times, it’s just a way to think through issues, to make sure that we’re covering all the bases.”