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Griffin, charities aid Chicago Olympics as donors face slump
Bloomberg News
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Published: 2/12/2009 7:05 AM | Updated: 2/12/2009 7:06 AM

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Chicago is asking charitable foundations and wealthy individuals such as hedge-fund manager Kenneth Griffin to support its 2016 Olympic bid as the recession erodes the finances of local corporate donors like Boeing Co.

Griffin, 40, founder of Citadel Investment Group LLC, donated $500,000 of his own money to the effort, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust also made contributions. Boeing, based in Chicago, said last month it will cut 10,000 jobs as demand for aircraft slumps.

"People are making their decisions based on their view of what the market will be in 2014, 2015, 2016," said Patrick Ryan, 71, chief organizer for Chicago's effort to land the games. "It's going to be more difficult, but we continue to raise money."

Chicago, along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, must submit a formal bid book to the International Olympic Committee today as they compete to host the summer games. The IOC is scheduled to vote Oct. 2 in Copenhagen.

Private financing is taking on more importance because Chicago won't offer the committee financial guarantees for construction costs at the Olympic Village. Developers have shown interest in building the $1.1 billion housing complex, Ryan said. The other candidate cities have government backing.

"It's not a death knell, but it's one strike against Chicago," said Marc Ganis, the Chicago-based president of sports-marketing consultant Sportscorp Ltd.

Ryan wouldn't identify wealthy individuals he has approached, other than to say they helped raise $600 million in recent years to build Millennium Park and a new wing opening in May at the Art Institute of Chicago.

"The tradition of public and private partnership that Chicago has had for years will continue to generate good support for us," said Ryan, retired chairman of Chicago-based insurance broker Aon Corp.

Griffin and his wife, Anne Dias Griffin, 39, gave $19 million to the new wing, the Art Institute said. Katie Spring, a Citadel spokeswoman, said Griffin contributed to Chicago's bid but wouldn't provide further details.

Contributors to Millennium Park included Penny Pritzker, 50, president of the Pritzker Realty Group. She declined to comment through spokeswoman Barbara Casey.

The MacArthur Foundation's president, Jonathan Fanton, said the organization has given $5 million toward Chicago's bid, and expects to donate $5 million more by 2016. He said he wants to ensure that Chicagoans will be able to sell goods and services to Olympic visitors, and to get jobs during the games. He also wants to make sure Olympic venues are constructed so residents can use them after the games.

The Chicago Community Trust, made up of individuals and families dedicated to aiding the city, has contributed $1 million to similar neighborhood efforts, said Terry Mazany, president.

Fundraising began more than two years ago. Boeing contributed more than $2 million early on and remains a strong supporter, said Todd Blecher, a company spokesman.

To reinforce its proposal, Chicago plans to pledge $1.25 billion in guarantees for the games' operating costs, Ryan said. That includes $600 million in private insurance and $500 million approved by Chicago's city council last month, he said. Pat Quinn, the Illinois governor, pledged $150 million of state funds, said Bob Reed, a spokesman.

Guarantees are taking on added importance as host cities for the 2010 and 2012 games struggle with the recession.

Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Games, may borrow C$458 million ($368 million) to finish its Olympic Village by November, Mayor Gregor Robertson said at a news conference in December. The U.K. government agreed last month to kick in an extra 461 million pounds ($663 million) for construction at London's 2012 Olympic Park after organizers failed to raise money from banks.

The setbacks provide ammunition for Chicago games opponents like Bob Quellos, 31, an architectural intern who helped attract 250 people to an organizing meeting of critics last month. He's planning a protest during the committee's visit to Chicago in April.

"If we're going to improve the city, shouldn't we just invest in schools, hospitals and housing?" Quellos said. "Why invest in an economic model that doesn't work?"

The Chicago organizers plan to hold down costs by scheduling 22 of 27 events in existing or temporary venues. A non-permanent, $360 million Olympic Stadium would use seats recycled from the London Games, said Rob Livingstone, who runs Gamesbids.com, a Toronto-based Olympics information Web site.

IOC officials prefer dealing with mayors like Chicago's Richard Daley, 56, who has been in office 20 years and has the power to deliver on promises, Ganis said. Daley persuaded the city council to approve $86 million to buy land for the Olympic Village and $45 million for police and other services.

Daley said at a news conference three days ago that he expects the U.S. to emerge from recession long before 2016: "If we don't, I hope this is a situation that we never face in America: that this country fully collapses."