Christopher G. Kennedy

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Chris Kennedy
Personal details
Born Christopher George Kennedy
(1963-07-04) July 4, 1963 (age 53)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sheila Sinclair-Berner
(m. 1987)
Relations See Kennedy family
Children 4
Parents Robert F. Kennedy
Ethel Skakel
Education Boston College (B.A.)
Northwestern University (M.B.A.)

Christopher George "Chris" Kennedy (born July 4, 1963) is an American businessman who is Chair of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc[1] and a candidate for Governor of Illinois, he is a son of former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family. Kennedy served as Chair of the Board of Trustees for the University of Illinois from 2009 to 2015,[2] until April 2012, he was also president of Merchandise Mart Properties, a commercial property management firm based in Chicago.[3]

On February 8, 2017, Kennedy announced his candidacy in the 2018 Illinois governor's race.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Robert Francis Kennedy and Ethel (née Skakel) Kennedy, the eighth of their eleven children. He is one of four grandchildren of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy born during the administration of his uncle U.S. President John F. Kennedy. His siblings are:

He grew up at his family home, Hickory Hill, in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and attended the Potomac School in McLean through ninth grade. He transferred to Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, also a suburb of Washington, and graduated in 1982. While in high school, he volunteered at a home for runaway youth.

Kennedy graduated from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1986.[5] In 1994, he graduated with a master of business administration degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.


Kennedy is chairman of the Kennedy family investment firm Joseph P Kennedy Enterprises, Inc.[6] He is treasurer of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, he was on the Executive Committee for the Chicago Community Trust, and he has been a board member of the Catholic Theological Union, Interface, Inc. and Knoll Inc.[1][7] He is a member of the mutual fund board of trustees for Ariel Investments.[8]

Kennedy was the president of Merchandise Mart Properties in Chicago, Illinois, from 2000 until 2012, the property was originally owned by the Kennedy family until it was sold to Vornado Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust. The Merchandise Mart, one of the properties of Merchandise Mart Properties, is the largest commercial building in the world, serving as both a luxury wholesale design center and one of the leading international business locations in Chicago. The Mart spans two city blocks and rises twenty-five stories for a total of 4.2 million square feet (390,000 square metres) Three million people come through the Mart each year to visit its retail shops, permanent showrooms, and office space as well as attend the numerous trade, consumer and community events hosted there.

Top Box Foods[edit]

In May 2012, Kennedy started the Chicago-based non-profit Top Box Foods, the organization was created as a way to get discounted groceries to families who live in areas that either lack grocery stores or have an abundance of fast food. Kennedy initially invested $150,000 to get Top Box started, and subsequently designed the organization to be self-sustaining.

Top Box as an organization purchases food, boxes it in various combinations and delivers it monthly to churches and organizations in mostly low-income neighborhoods, the food items in the box change from month to month and include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and frozen meals, with box prices ranging from $19 to $39. The boxes can be ordered online or through the organizations where the boxes are delivered, these organizations, otherwise known as Top Box "host sites," range from small neighborhood churches with a few dozen families to some of the Chicago's largest, including Trinity United Church of Christ and Salem Baptist Church.

Personal life[edit]


Kennedy met Sheila Sinclair-Berner (born December 4, 1962), an Illinois native, while attending Boston College, after graduating from college in 1986, Kennedy moved to Decatur, Illinois, and married in 1987.[9] The couple had four children, Katherine "Kate" Berner-Kennedy (b. 1990), Christopher George "Chris" Kennedy, Jr. (b. 1992), Sarah Louise McLovin Kennedy (b. 1994), Clare Rose Kennedy (b. 1998), whom they are raising in the Chicago suburb of Kenilworth. His wife earned a law degree from Northwestern University and practiced at Sidley & Austin[citation needed] in Chicago before taking time off to take care of their children.


Kennedy's political activism began at an early age, and in 1979 and 1980 he worked on his uncle U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy's bid for the 1980 Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. President. He was also treasurer of the campaign committee for his brother Joseph's reelection to the U.S. House in 1988. Over the years he has organized numerous fundraising events in Chicago for his uncle Ted, his sister Kathleen, his brother Joseph and his cousin Mark Shriver.

The National Journal once quoted Kennedy as saying, "I have a lot to keep up with: a brother who might run for Congress, a sister and a brother considering races for governor, a cousin who might run for Congress, another in Congress, an uncle in the Senate and a cousin-in-law, Arnold [Schwarzennegger], who is thinking of running for governor."[citation needed]

Beyond his family, Kennedy has served in a variety of capacities for numerous political campaigns, including hosting a fundraiser for Barack Obama in his bid for U.S. Senate.[citation needed]

In August 2009, after considering a run for the U.S. Senate,[10] as did many others, Kennedy decided not to run.[11] Also in August 2009, on the day after his uncle Ted's death on August 25, 2009, Kennedy was appointed to the University of Illinois board of trustees by Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.[12] On September 10, 2009, Kennedy was elected by the trustees as their chairman.[13]

Prior to February 8, 2017, when Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic Nomination for Illinois Governor in 2018,[14] he had never run for any elective office.[12]

Kennedy during his campaign for governor advocated for “a property tax system that can’t be abused by the wealthy and insiders” in a fundraising email.[15] House Speaker Mike Madigan owns a property tax law firm, and Kennedy retained the services of that firm.[16] Kennedy served as the president of MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.) from 2000 to 2011. Madigan's property tax law firm got MMPI more than $133,000 in property tax refunds, according to checks that the Cook County Treasurer's office sent out in 2009.[16] Kennedy criticized one of his fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates, J.B. Pritzker, for getting a large property tax reduction on a Gold Coast mansion.[17] “It’s an inherently corruptible system and we ought to reject it,” Kennedy said to reporters in reference to Pritzker’s property taxes.[18] "The Cook County property tax appeals business is notorious for pricing political connections at a premium," wrote the Illinois Policy Institute.[19]

Business and economic involvement[edit]

He is on the board of trustees of the mutual funds managed by Ariel Investments,[20] a Chicago-based investment-management firm.

Since 1996, he has been a member of the Economic Club of Chicago,[21] a group established in the 1920s with the goal of aiding "the creation and expression of an enlightened public opinion on the important economic and social questions of the day".

Since 1997, Kennedy has also been a member of the Executives Club of Chicago,[22] which brings world leaders and practices to the local business community to establish productive relationships and explore the issues facing the business world in today's business environment.

From 1997-1999, Kennedy served as chairman of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, a sales-and-marketing organization promoting Chicago to the tourism and convention industries. Under Kennedy's chairmanship, the bureau retained and expanded Chicago's event-and-convention industry.[citation needed]

Since 2000, Kennedy has been a member of the City Club of Chicago, a group that brings together civic and cultural leaders to discuss and debate issues affecting the Chicago area.

Since 2005, he has been a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a group that brings together the city's business, educational, and cultural leaders on projects to improve central industries and create new economic opportunities.

Environmental leadership[edit]

Green building practices[edit]

Under Kennedy's leadership of the Mart, it was the largest building in the world to be awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification in 2007[23] from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The Mart has long been implementing sustainable practices, the Mart Center began operating a thermal storage facility in 1986, capable of building 2,000,000 pounds (910,000 kg) of ice per night, cooling 71 buildings in the surrounding neighborhood, and saving $200,000 in electricity costs in the first year.[citation needed]

In 1990, the Mart Center began using Green Seal-approved green cleaning products and the next year implemented a recycling program, which today includes all forms of paper products, glass, light bulbs, batteries, aluminum and construction materials; in 1996, the Mart Center became one of the first major property owners in downtown Chicago to enter into an agreement with the district cooling system now known as Thermal Chicago, thus contributing to the national effort to reduce the discharge of ozone-damaging CFCs.

In 2006, MMPI joined Clean Air Counts, a voluntary initiative to reduce smog forming pollutants and energy consumption in the greater Chicago area. Part of the campaign strategies included utilizing only low VOC cleaning products, paints and building materials, as well as energy efficient lighting and alternative workplace transportation options. To date, the Mart Center has reduced pollution by 264,018 pounds (119,757 kg), the largest reduction by a commercial building.[citation needed]

That same year, the Mart Center recycling program saved over 13,000 trees and recycled nearly 11 million pounds of waste, while water conservation efforts saved 5.5 million US gallons (21,000 m3) of water. More than eight percent of the estimated 10,000 people working at the Mart walk, bike or take public transportation; to encourage greener methods of transportation, the Mart expanded bicycle storage capacity to more than 200. In 2009, MMPI converted all stationery to a one hundred percent post-consumer recycled product.[citation needed]

The Mart has nine LEED-certified showrooms, with five others on their way to LEED certification.

Kennedy serves on Mayor Emanuel's Green Ribbon Committee and is Co-Chair for the Cook County Sustainability Advisory Council.

Green alliances[edit]

MMPI has worked closely with:


Other civic involvement[edit]

  • Since 1996, he has been a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a nonpartisan group that seeks to impact discourse on global issues through leadership, education, and policy.
  • Since 1996, Kennedy has been on the board of directors at The Irish Fellowship Club,[28] a Chicago-based group dedicated to preserving and promoting Irish heritage.
  • From 2006 until the Spring of 2013, he served on the board of directors of Catholic Theological Union, the largest Roman Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in the U.S.[29]
  • Greater Chicago Food Depository is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger throughout Cook County, Illinois. It also offers education programs providing the knowledge and tools needed to break the poverty cycle.
  • El Valor[30] is a nonprofit group seeking to enrich the local community by empowering the underserved, disenfranchised, and disabled while creating a sense of unity among all community members.
  • Heartland Alliance[31] is a human-rights-advocacy group providing housing, healthcare, economic security, and legal protection for low-income citizens.
  • Governor Quinn appointed Kennedy to the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois in September 2009. He served in that role until his gubernatorial appointment expired in January 2015.
  • He served as a Member of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Community Trust until January 2015.
  • He served as the Lund-Gill Chair in the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences at Dominican University (Illinois).[32]
  • He is the chairman of the board of Innovation Illinois, a progressive 501(c)(4) non-profit advocacy group formed in April 2015.

Bill Ayers[edit]

On September 23, 2010, Bill Ayers was unanimously denied emeritus status at the University of Illinois at Chicago after board chair Kennedy gave a speech[33][34] protesting it, with the quote "I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy."

Residential development[edit]

As Chairman of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc., Kennedy is responsible for the development of the Kennedy family real estate holdings in Chicago known as Wolf Point, Chicago. The Wolf Point development site represents a billion-dollar commitment to the downtown core, and the site is zoned for construction of a residential apartment building, a self-park garage, and two additional high-rise buildings.

Kennedy also is a partner in Sudbury Station LLC, a development entity proposing a 250-unit luxury rental housing development with a state mandated minimum affordable housing set aside in Sudbury, Massachusetts, designed to meet local housing needs for seniors and the working class community. Proposed on a 39-acre parcel zoned residential near the Historic District of Sudbury, the Village at Sudbury Station would satisfy the Massachusetts affordable housing mandate for Sudbury, would be located close to schools, parks, churches and public safety facilities, and would contribute significant additional tax revenue to the town.[35][36] The project has received widespread criticism from town officials and residents. Residents voted unamiously to hire a special counsel to stop the development, which violates over thirty local zoning ordinances.[37][38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Christopher G. Kennedy | The University of Illinois Board of Trustees". 
  3. ^ "Chris Kennedy moving closer to bid for governor". Politico PRO. 
  4. ^ Pearson, Rick. "Chris Kennedy to run for Illinois governor, says 'compromise is not surrender' in dig at Rauner". 
  5. ^ American Experience | The Kennedys | Kennedy Family Tree | PBS
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Staff writer (August 16, 1987). "Sheila Sinclair Berner Wed To Christopher G. Kennedy". The New York Times. Accessed August 26, 2009.
  10. ^ Stantis, Scott (August 18, 2009). "Chris Kennedy Won’t Run". Chicago Tribune. Accessed September 20, 2009.
  11. ^ Pearson, Rick (August 18, 2009). "Chris Kennedy Won’t Run in 2010 for Senate or Governor". Chicago Tribune. Accessed August 26, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Staff writer (August 26, 2009). [clarification needed] "Chris Kennedy to be named UI Trustee". The Associated Press via The Daily Illini. Accessed August 26, 2009.
  13. ^ "New U. of I. trustees pick Kennedy to lead them" Chicago Tribune. Accessed September 10, 2009.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Kennedy decries insiders, promises “radical change”". Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  16. ^ a b "Kennedy-led company used Madigan’s firm for property tax refunds". Illinois Policy. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  17. ^ "For J.B. Pritzker, mansion’s disrepair has saved $230K in taxes". Chicago Sun-Times. 2017-05-12. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  18. ^ "Kennedy, Biss hit Pritzker on property taxes". ILLINOISHOMEPAGE. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  19. ^ "Madigan’s millions: How the speaker sells his sway". Illinois Policy. 2017-02-08. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  20. ^ Ariel Investments
  21. ^ Economic Club of Chicago
  22. ^ Executives Club of Chicago
  23. ^ World's Largest LEED-EB Certified Building
  24. ^ Clean Air Counts
  25. ^ Friends of the Chicago River
  26. ^, The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation official website
  27. ^ Center for Disability and Elder Law
  28. ^ The Irish Fellowship Club
  29. ^ Catholic Theological Union
  30. ^ El Valor
  31. ^ Heartland Alliance
  32. ^ Dominican University
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ Brown, R. (2011) Emeritus Status: It's a Matter of Honor, Especially When It's Denied, The Chronicle of Higher Education 57(43), A8-A9.
  35. ^ 40B permit application
  36. ^ Fiscal impact analysis
  37. ^ Office of Selectmen letter, November 5, 2015
  38. ^

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