How the mighty have fallen. In the 12 months since we compiled our inaugural list of the 100 most powerful Chicagoans, the Fates have given the cards in the city’s power deck a thorough shuffle.
With one false step that left him writhing in pain on the court, the bloom came off Bulls star Derrick Rose (No. 7 in 2012). Caped corruption crusader Patrick Fitzgerald (formerly No. 2) vacated his high-profile post as U.S. attorney. And Groupon, that billion-dollar baby, drooled all over itself—knocking founder Andrew Mason from No. 11 to the very last spot on our list.
This time around, you’ll notice that many of the chief clout holders are chiefs: those in the C-suites whose decisions are rippling through the regional economy and beyond. A slew of them are cracking the list for the first time, including McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson (No. 16), now the most powerful African American executive in the country; ComEd’s first female chief, Anne Pramaggiore (No. 83); and Wrapports chairman Michael Ferro Jr. (No. 69), a part owner of the Chicago Reader and Chicago Sun-Times. Many other listees magnified their influence by cannily working the intersection of business and politics—such as Michael Sacks (No. 7), the CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management and Rahm’s go-to guy at the economic development group World Business Chicago.
Mind you, power isn’t conferred by position or wealth alone (though several billionaires do make an appearance). Chicago increasingly finds itself on the global stage thanks to the achievements of its chefs (Grant Achatz, No. 26), artists (Theaster Gates, No. 38), and intellectuals (Richard Posner, No. 92), for example. What this list doesn’t include: people whose primary home is currently outside the Chicago area. (Sorry, Barack and Michelle.)
One thing that remains unchanged in 2013: the identity of the most powerful person in Chicago. How long will Rahm keep his grip on No. 1? If the past year taught us anything, it’s that someone surprising can hold the trump card.