We are moving out of the Aon Center in Chicago next month. I visited the office we called home for the past 27 years yesterday for the last time. It was in that office in 1996 that Dan told me I was going to be CEO. When in Chicago, I worked in my late father’s office, never at his desk but at the circular conference table. As today marks Founder’s Day, the 69th anniversary of the founding of Edelman, with four people in a corner of the giant Merchandise Mart, it is appropriate to be a bit sentimental.
Among my favorite recollections of the Randolph Street office:
- Dan Loved the Building—He was so proud that his company was in the same building as giant Standard Oil of Indiana. The white marble floors, the exclusive dining club at the top of the building, the stunning view of Lake Michigan were all part of the allure. It was a recognition that Edelman had made it to the big leagues; that we were worthy of representing any multinational.
- Pam Talbot and Consumer Marketing—It was Edelman Chicago that did the initial work on Xbox and Starbucks. It was our center for food marketing, with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, Kraft, Heinz 9-Lives Pet Food and Orville Redenbacher. Pam made the work imaginative, fresh and compelling.
- Edelman Digital Was Born Here—Nancy Ruscheinski helped lead the revolution and birth of Edelman Interactive Solutions with the launch of the Turkey Talk-Line website in 1996. Then there was the inimitable Bayer Flea-Mail to remind pet owners to change their dog collars. Matt Harrington used the Digital team to manage the Odwalla contamination crisis, our first experience in digital tools in an unfolding drama.
- Deep Connection to the City of Chicago—Our office supported the launch of P33, which aims to attract technology companies to the city. And we unveiled the UN[ ]SPOKEN campaign on Mental Health for Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month. We also did pro bono work for former Mayor Richard Daley on his last trade mission to Shanghai. We have given so much on a volunteer basis, led by my brother John Edelman, including the Department of Defense Warrior Games, a multi-sport event for wounded, injured or ill veterans to enhance their recovery and rehabilitation through adaptive sports.
- The Legendary Visitors—From Rev. Jesse Jackson to Leo Melamed of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to Senator Charles Percy to Charles Lubin founder of Sara Lee, there was a constant stream of important people visiting my father.
- The Ruth Effect—A stunning portrait of my mother taken by Victor Skrebneski was the central focus of the office. She was a frequent visitor, meeting the clients, greeting the Edelman colleagues. She made sure that my father had his daily sandwich bag (he only ate one of the two cookies, giving the other to his secretary so as to control his weight at a strict 175 lbs.).
- The Corporate Team—Kevin Cook, Chuck Kaiser, Bob Kornecki, Sheila Mulligan…doing top work on Motorola, Humana, United. Oscar Munoz, installed as new CEO of United, called our switchboard and reached Kevin Cook. We did a proposal in four days, presented on Monday and were at work on Tuesday. We were his partner in the transformation of the airline.
- The Plaque Outside the Building—On a shimmering fall day in 2009, we dedicated a plaque on the fountain outside of the Aon Center. It was the first time that my dad was unable to stand for a ceremony. He delivered his remarks from a wheelchair. He was so pleased to see his visage overlooking Millennium Park. We are taking the plaque to the new building on Canal St.
- The Desk of Dan—It is an imposing wood structure. He had two large boxes on the left front, always overflowing with paper. There were five or six manila folders with client work or presentations to be edited. There was an ever-present notepad so that he could always recall details of each conversation. His Dictaphone was close by for the latest thoughts. At least four tapes a day were left for transcription by his secretary. His wool hat and fedora were on the credenza. The battered briefcase for his continual journey was a constant companion. To the right was a globe; he would show visitors where we had established offices.
- When My Parents Passed—In January 2013 and again in October 2013, the Chicago team gathered in the lobby of the office. They put their arms around Renee, John and me. They told Dan and Ruth stories. They understood that an era had passed but that the next generation was ready to carry on. They were proud to be part of the family. It made the unbearable days much brighter.
It’s on to our next chapter in our fifth home in Chicago, which will open in mid-November, with a roof deck that overlooks the Chicago River. I can’t wait. Thanks to all Edelman Chicago people past and present who have made us proud in the city of our birth.
Richard Edelman is CEO.