Spring 2017 Cover

Features

Personalities, characters, visionaries, trends, emerging ideas, industry insight, history, evolution and more… Features explore the topics that matter most to the Chicago Booth community with memorable storytelling and insightful reporting.

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On the Ball

David Han, ’02, CEO and cofounder of Yao Capital, long dreamed of starting his own private equity shop. It’s unlikely, however, that he initially envisioned that that venture would pair him with NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Yao Ming, one of the tallest men ever to play in the National Basketball Association. Yet in January 2016—along with close Booth friend and Yao Ming’s longtime business partner, Erik Zhang—Han cofounded Yao Capital with the renowned Chinese sports icon. Their firm focuses on investments in the sports industry in China and around the globe. Considering that Yao is seven feet six and Han more the height of a point guard, the two men would be quite a mismatch in a game of one-on-one hoops. When it comes to investing, they just might be the ideal teammates.<br/><br/>Promising early Yao Capital deals involving the world’s leading kickboxing league, a booming North American sports nutrition company, and a fast-growing auto-racing championship featuring 140-miles-per-hour electric cars have put a smile on Han’s face. “We’ve made very good investments in the early stages, in and out of China,” he said, sitting in a sunny conference room of Yao Capital’s 10th-floor offices in central Shanghai. “We’re in the right time and the right place. And so far, it’s on the right track.

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Distinguished Alumni Awards 2017

Since 1971, we have celebrated innovative leaders across all industries, from finance to the arts, manufacturing to public service, and beyond. The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor individuals who continue to challenge and change the world we live in, exemplifying the resounding impact of Chicago Booth. This year’s winners—three from the Booth class of 1980—have blazed singular paths to the leading edges of four very different industries: oil, pharmaceutical research, cable television, and food processing. Yet they all have proven their passion for digging deeper and discovering more at every stage of their illustrious careers.

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All in the Family

When a family business has multiple generations and hundreds of stakeholders, how does an individual stand out? Create meaningful change? Carry the business into the future? We talked with Booth alumni who lead or manage family-owned businesses, from a conglomerate in Thailand to a national baker of breads that got its start in a Chicago basement. They all sought a Booth education because of its reputation for intellectual rigor, lessons in analytic problem solving, and world-class faculty. The family members who run these businesses have more than one generation schooled in The Chicago Approach™. They reached a point in their professional lives—inside or outside the family firm—when they saw the need to boost quantitative skills. For some, that time came after a world event such as the 2008 crash, which upended commodity prices. For others, the education was a way to step up and assume new roles. Relying on data instead of emotion eases decision making, they say. This doesn’t mean they’re bloodless. Always they have in mind their founders, most of them immigrants, who created what they now run. They share holidays with generations of stakeholders: there’s no ducking a failed venture. <br/>

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Entrepreneurs without Borders

In June 2014, after five years in the marketing department at Coca-Cola, Jonas De Cooman, ’16 (EXP-21), felt stalled intellectually. He was ready to push his boundaries. He planned to pursue his MBA while continuing at Coca-Cola. Then unexpected policy changes at work eliminated continuing education support for De Cooman, and it looked like his plans were crumbling. So he sold his apartment. With two small children, De Cooman and his wife carefully weighed their options and the risks involved. Selling their apartment in Belgium provided the only way to afford his MBA. “I decided to pursue an MBA to kickstart my personal learning curve,” he said. De Cooman realized that he wanted to gain more control over his career and make his own mark in the global marketplace as an entrepreneur. With an extensive consumer marketing background, a global perspective, and a promising business idea, he also saw knowledge gaps he needed to fill in order to launch and operate a scalable new business. “I am driven by personal growth and I felt that I was not learning at the same pace that I used to be learning at the start of my career,” he said. “I chose to study again because I didn’t feel equipped enough to be an entrepreneur.”<br/>