The 100 Most Powerful Chicagoans: Rich Melman

The 100 Most Powerful Chicagoans: Rich Melman

Chicago Magazine |
Feb 14, 2012

If any place breeds power, it’s Chicago. “Clout” and the city have gone together since the early 1900s, when our Irish Catholic forefathers clapped a stranglehold on the levers of authority that they have been loath to relinquish in modern times. Even in recent years, the general pecking order was clear: There was Richard M. Daley, then the rest. But last year the Man on Five vacated his throne, and Oprah threw us over for Tinseltown. Blago was busted, Rahm arrived, and Groupon, the web upstart that sounded like a fish special, became a multi-billion-dollar baby. Roiling the status quo, too, was a still-troubled economy that gaveth power and tooketh it away.

To be sure, some of the old guard still hold sway (Pritzkers, Crowns, Madigans). But the arrival of Rahm and departure of Oprah signal a seismic shift—one that begs a fresh examination of the city’s shot callers and game changers. So we tapped our extended network, quizzing everyone from under-the-radar players to leaders in dozens of industries, and determined the top 100 people who really make the city go.

Power often springs from wealth. But in Chicago, perhaps more than in most places, the rawest source of influence gushes from the fountainhead of political might. For much of our history, that meant a ward machine dominated by white Irish Catholic men. This power structure found its purest expression in the American Pharaoh himself: Da Mare, Richard J. Daley, the undisputed boss for 21 years. (His “idea of affirmative action was nine Irishmen and a Swede,” according to his press secretary, Frank Sullivan.)

The past, to some extent, has been prologue. Our list is dominated by white men, but it looks more diverse than it would have a decade or two ago. The arenas where power resides are shifting. As leaders in culture and food make bold influence grabs, we’ve reassessed what gives someone clout—it’s not necessarily wealth or position, but the power to influence; to electrify crowds; to inspire devotion. That’s why you’ll spy names on the list like Grant Achatz and Derrick Rose, Martha Lavey and Theo Epstein.

Our only requirement was that the listees’ primary residence be in the Chicago area and that they spend a significant amount of time here. That has led to quirks. For instance, the most powerful man in the world, President Obama, does not appear on the list (he tops our Chicago-on-the-Potomac roster of expats).

Some choices—and omissions—may be controversial. Good. Tell us who you think we snubbed, who we placed too high or too low, and who we ranked just right in the comments here. We want to know, really. Knowledge, after all, is you-know-what.

56. Richard Melman

AGE: 70
OCCUPATIONFounder and chairman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

Foodies love to cluck that the head of Chicago’s biggest restaurant group has lost his golden touch—or that he has passed the mantle to sons R.J. and Jerrod (see “Power Siblings”). Said foodies are usually eating at one of Melman’s 75 packed restaurants at the time.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

How To
How To Win (2X, 3X, 4X even 5X Points) All Summer Long
Aug 6, 2018

Everyone we know loves summer and everyone we know also loves to win. So what if we told you that…

read more >

Recent Posts

In The Restaurants
It’s Apple Season: Where To Eat ‘Em
Oct 16, 2018

Yeah, yeah, pumpkin this and pumpkin that, but let us not forget about our other favorite fall…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Watch Managing Partner, Kiran Pinto a Trailblazer & Teacher at LEYE
Oct 15, 2018

Welcome to Lettuce Life, a behind-the-scenes glimpse at our restaurants and the stories of behind…

read more >
In The Restaurants
One Week of Free Delivery Through Caviar October 15-21
Oct 14, 2018

It's getting cold outside in Chicago and D.C. so we thought hey, let's make it even easier for you…

read more >
In The Restaurants
You Can Earn $$ By Booking Your Holiday Party Early, Here’s How!
Oct 13, 2018

Are you in charge of booking your company (or friends) annual holiday party this year? If the answer…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Fall Harvest’s Best Dishes
Oct 12, 2018

The bounty of fall harvest comes at a time in the year when we are craving the comfort of cool…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Culinary Care Delivers Comfort to Cancer Patients, One Meal at a Time
Oct 11, 2018

Introducing our friends at Culinary Care, a Chicago non-profit organization that helps cancer…

read more >
Openings
Crab Cellar is Now Open With Unlimited Crab & Burgers 5 Nights a Week
Oct 10, 2018

Crab and burgers are just a few of our favorite things so why not open an entire restaurant…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Check It Out: All-New Merch Available from Three Dots and a Dash
Oct 9, 2018

Calling all Tikiphiles! The latest wave of custom Three Dots and a Dash merchandise is here. Check…

read more >
In The Restaurants
A Tale of Two Uni’s: Santa Barbara vs. Hokkaido
Oct 8, 2018

Uni is one of those things that you either love, or you don't. What is uni, you ask? Simply put, uni…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Halloween 2018: Treats, Tricks & Specials
Oct 7, 2018

  It's officially October so you know what that means: time to grab your favorite pumpkin-spiced…

read more >
In The Restaurants
All Pumpkin, Everything
Oct 3, 2018

'Tis the season for everyone's favorite fall ingredient, pumpkin. Whether you're preparing pumpkin…

read more >
How To
Getting Saucy: 3 Pasta Sauce Recipes for Easy, Intermediate or Expert Chefs
Oct 1, 2018

October marks National Pasta Month which begs the question: what is pasta without the sauce? We're…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!