McDonald's President and CEO Don Thompson took everyone by surprise today when he introduced Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, who was in town talking about his new book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers.”
Mr. Thompson said he and Mr. Horowitz and their wives met each other at a black corporate directors conference some years ago co-sponsored by John Rogers Jr., founder of Ariel Investments LLC. Mr. Horowitz was a speaker that day, too, and the two men hit it off.
“We both love music, we both love to cook and we both like to smoke," he said, prompting stunned silence in the room at the 1871 tech center at Merchandise Mart.
Mr. Thompson quickly followed up by saying, “We smoke food!” The crowd burst into laughter, and there was a comment from the audience, “Are we in Denver?”
The event was pulled together by the men's wives, Felicia Horowitz and Liz Thompson. They sat in the front row along with Ms. Thompson's other pals: Amy Rule, the first lady of Chicago, and Laura Van Peenan, managing director of investment banking at William Blair & Co., which co-sponsored the event.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced Mr. Thompson. Chicago venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker conducted the Q&A with Mr. Horowitz. You can read more about that here in John Pletz's On Technology blog.
Other notable names in the crowd included Fieldglass CEO Jai Shekhawat, 1871 CEO Howard Tullman, PrivateBank CEO Larry Richman, AvantCredit Business Development Director Donald Richman, William Blair partner Richard Kiphart, Balyasny Asset Management Senior Managing Director Louis Conforti, tech entrepreneur Mark Tebbe, GoHealth founder Brandon Cruz and Liam Krehbiel, CEO of A Better Chicago, a nonprofit that funds education-focused nonprofits.