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Steve Easterbrook

“We begin 2016 in a much better place than we were 12 months ago,” Easterbrook told analysts in late January. And it’s no empty boast. Mere months after taking the reins at the struggling Oak Brook–based burger behemoth, Easterbrook gave customers what the company had previously insisted was impossible: breakfast all day! After the August … Read more

Lori Healey

If all had gone according to plan, Healey would be scrambling right now to get Chicago in tiptop shape to host the Summer Olympics. Instead, as head of McPier since April, she’s scrambling to keep tourists and conventioneers coming to the city. The headwinds are strong, including $3.5 billion in bond debt, flat hotel occupancy, … Read more

Blase Cupich

Don’t let the gentle voice fool you: In his first year as shepherd of the nation’s third-­largest Catholic flock, Cupich roared. He stood up to American bishops at an important synod in October, supporting a controversial path to Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. He used his moral authority to publicly criticize Rauner’s antiunion … Read more

Joe Mansueto

Mansueto speaks softly but makes very big things happen. He has already revolutionized the way investors get information (Morningstar), showered largess on his alma mater (funding for U. of C.’s library), and kept business magazines going strong (Fast Company and Inc.). Now the Indiana native is brainstorming with other big-shot biz leaders about creating a … Read more

Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson

The future of the Art Institute of Chicago is in plastics. That is, plastics mogul Stefan Edlis and his wife, Gael Neeson, who last April donated 44 works of pop art valued at $400 million—the biggest gift in the museum’s history. While a $35 million cash gift from the late Dorothy Braude Edinburg made news … Read more

Jeanne Gang

She flashed her green thumb at Northerly Island and the Lucas Museum (its Jabba-like fatness now buffered by parkland), wrapped the new Writers Theatre in Glencoe, spruced up Hyde Park, and unveiled plans to make North Lawndale’s police station more YMCA than barracks. Oh yeah, she also cemented plans for Vista Tower: At 1,186 feet, … Read more

Karen Lewis

After undergoing her final round of chemotherapy for the brain cancer that ended her mayoral bid in 2014, she’s baaack! And feistier than ever, taking aim at Rahm, Rauner, and CPS head Forrest Claypool ([[[No. 32]]]), who she says knows “nothing about education.” Lewis’s powerful union voted in December to authorize another strike after contract … Read more

Kurt Summers Jr.

This political wunderkind—and grandson of the legendary political strategist Sam Patch—began the year walking a fine line between his boss (the mayor), his former boss (Toni Preckwinkle), and his own ambitions. A loyal soldier, Summers must have heard the growing chatter that he’d be a darn good candidate to pick up the pieces of Emanuel’s … Read more

Jim Delany

College sports is big business, and as overseer of a 14-school juggernaut, Delany is widely considered its most powerful exec. Big Ten revenue—$338 million in fiscal 2014—is sure to grow after this season, when the commish negotiates new multibillion-dollar TV contracts. Money pouring into Northwestern, U. of I., and other schools could rise by two-thirds, … Read more

Theo Epstein

When Epstein arrived in Chicago five years ago, he could have walked on Lake Michigan. By 2014, fans hissed that maybe he wasn’t the savior after all. Then came 2015: the first division title in 12 years and a playoff dismantling of the hated Cards. Now, after more big signings in the off-season (five-tool outfielder … Read more