“I’ve straddled the worlds of business and politics. I understand how government works, but more importantly, I know how an economy is meant to function, not just for the rich, but for members of all communities.”
Chris and his wife, Sheila, run Top Box Foods, a hunger-relief non-profit they founded to deliver high-quality, healthy, affordable foods to underserved neighborhoods. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Board of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the nation’s leading non-profit food distribution and training center, which provides food to more than 600,000 adults and children each year.
Chris managed the Merchandise Mart, one of the great economic engines of Illinois. As President of the Mart, Chris worked with governmental agencies, labor groups, and independent small businesses to bring companies and good jobs back to Illinois. Under Chris’ leadership, the Mart became one of the largest LEED-certified buildings in the world.
Now Chris is leading the real estate development in downtown Chicago known as Wolf Point. Wolf Point is a massive construction project backed by more than $1 billion in private financing that is bringing 2,000 construction and permanent jobs to Illinois.
Earlier in his career, Chris worked for Archer Daniels Midland, a leader of Illinois’ agricultural industry and one of the largest corporations in the state. He currently serves on the board of multiple large manufacturing companies and investment funds. Chris earned his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
“I moved to Illinois 30 years ago with an enthusiasm for business and a commitment to serve. Every job I’ve had, every organization I’ve been a part of, has relied on teams working together and shared leadership, which resulted in shared success.”
From 2009 through 2015, Chris served as chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. At U of I, Chris oversaw a $5.5 billion budget, 78,000 students and more than 23,000 faculty and staff. During his tenure, he reformed the administration and admissions process and grew the endowment and increased financial aid. He is a former Trustee for the Catholic Theological Union, one of the largest schools of theology in the world.
Carrying on a family tradition, Chris has been a lifelong advocate of rights for persons with disabilities. He is a longtime supporter of Special Olympics Chicago and Special Olympics Illinois as well as Best Buddies International, an organization promoting social and employment inclusion of people with developmental disabilities. Chris is also a former board member for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, one of the nation’s leading physical-rehabilitation hospitals.
For years, Chris helped lead the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness. He is a proud member of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which promotes the benefits of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
“I’ve spent my life bringing people together to solve complex problems. I can help make decisions in government that will improve the lives of everyone. Together, we can fix the mess and restore the promise of our state.”
Chris is running for governor because he thinks Illinois is headed in the wrong direction. His campaign is about restoring the future of this state – not through incremental change, but though fundamental change. A renewed focus on job creation will fuel everything from an expanding tax base to new homes to urban renaissance.
Chris’ life’s work has been about bringing people together to solve problems for the greater good. It is those skills and experiences that make him uniquely qualified to lead Illinois at this critical time. His vision for the future of our state embraces the American Dream–the notion that we are a country and a state where anyone can make it, where people can rise from rags to riches and where unlimited opportunity is the promise of our country.
Chris is the son of Ethel Skakel Kennedy and the late Senator Robert Francis Kennedy. He and his wife, Shelia, have been married for 29 years. They live in suburban Chicago, where they raised four children.