Nav Singh (right) grew up in New Delhi, not New England.
But he’s a quick learner: Less than three years after moving here from consultancy McKinsey & Co.’s New York office, Singh has completed his fast track into the inner circle, being named this month the next chairman of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber leaders do not usually pick a chairman who is relatively new here. Singh’s ascendancy happened after Suffolk Construction chief John Fish decided to leave the chairmanship in May, midway through his two-year term, to focus on his Olympic ambitions. Fish’s predecessors include people who are similarly wired — people such as Hill Holliday CEO Karen Kaplan, Bank of America’s Bob Gallery, and Bentley University president Gloria Larson.
Singh, who is managing partner of McKinsey’s Boston office, first got involved in the chamber leadership when he took David Fubini’s spot last year after Fubini retired from McKinsey.
“That’s a myth that people have about Boston,” Singh said, “that it’s a closed city, that you can’t break in.”
Singh tackled the task head on, meeting with hundreds of local leaders. He hosts periodic cocktail events at his Weston home that squeeze 50 or so luminaries into his family room to discuss topics such as drones or self-driven cars, gatherings that he calls “Imagine Get-Togethers.”
Now that he’s going to be the chamber chairman, he wants to figure out what his 1,500 members need in terms of support and public policy work and how to widen the chamber’s appeal. He’s got to help pick a CEO within the next few weeks to replace the retiring Paul Guzzi. (Is convention center chief Jim Rooney in line for the job? Singh’s lips are sealed.) And he wants to go on the offensive, to draw more businesses into Boston’s orbit.
“If you’re into innovation and biotech and life sciences, if you’re not here, you’re missing out,” Singh said. “My wife often describes me as a kid in the candy store now. This is a fascinating place.”
Ropes & Gray & Basketball
If you’re tuning in to March Madness, you might catch a glimpse of Dennis Coleman in the stands. You’ll know it’s him because he’ll be the only one nodding off amid the excitement of tournament basketball.
“One of my partners has pictures of me at the Final Four 10 rows from the court sound asleep,” said Coleman, a partner at Boston law firm Ropes & Gray.
Coleman isn’t bored. He’s just exhausted.
As head of the firm’s sports, media, and entertainment practice, Coleman jets from one tourney site to the next to attend meetings with the NCAA, a client, and to schmooze with athletic directors and university presidents, who hire and fire the roughly 30 Division I coaches for whom he is an agent.
This week, for instance, he plans to catch games in as many as four cities.
Coleman’s client roll includes Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli, and Providence’s Ed Cooley. He also reps NBC football analyst Tony Dungy, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell, and play-by-play legend Dick Enberg.
There’s a strategy behind Coleman’s travels: “I’ve had situations in which a coach’s contract has actually been done at an NCAA tournament site because you’re there with the athletic director and everybody’s happy when you win,” he said. “It’s easier to get business done at that time.”
Fishamajigs and Fribbles: Friendly territory for Forge Worldwide
Before an ad agency typically makes a pitch, its staffers need to do a little research to learn more about the prospective client.
Fortunately for the folks at Back Bay ad shop Forge Worldwide, there wasn’t much studying required to grab Friendly’s as an account. The employees were already quite familiar with the temptations posed by waffle fries, Fishamajigs and chocolate Fribbles. “We had a team of folks that had grown up with memories of Friendly’s from when they were a kid, to when they raised their own kids,” Forge chief executive officer Harry Chapin said.
It’s been a busy time for Chapin’s 23-person agency, one that’s much smaller than many of his competitors. The heavy activity is due, in part, to the Friendly’s deal that the firm just landed and to another account that Chapin secured: Herb Chambers’ auto dealership group.
The Friendly’s ads, focusing on the memories created at the company’s restaurants, started appearing last week; some of the footage was shot at the Wilbraham corporate office and at the chain’s Middleborough location. Forge’s billboards that aim to differentiate Chambers from other car dealers have already started showing up along Boston highways.
Boston-based Allen & Gerritsen had the Friendly’s account before Forge won it. And New York’s DeVito/Verdi, perhaps best known around here for its irreverent Legal Sea Foods ads, handled Chambers’ previous billboard campaign.
“These are traditional New England companies that have strong brands,” Chapin said. “If we can do something to make that brand successful, that’s something we can feel good about.”
Bio ball for a good cause
Some of the biggest names in the local biotech, pharma, and life sciences community gathered in an unlikely place this past weekend: the gym and field house at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. They were there for Bio-Ball, a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Now in its eleventh year, it attracted a record 650 people and raised nearly $180,000, its highest amount ever.
The day-long basketball tournament was made up of business professionals and Special Olympians, and one of its highlights was the “CEO Free Throw Contest,” in which chief executives or their designees demonstrated their prowess at the free throw line. Or, as Bluebird Bio CEO Nick Leschly puts its: “It’s an event where you basically embarrass CEOs.”
According to the rules, each successful shot earns points for that CEO’s team, but this year another feature was added. As Leschly recalls, Genzyme CEO David Meeker “stepped up and threw down the gauntlet” by saying he would make a contribution to Special Olympics for every basket he made — and an even larger contribution for every basket a rival CEO missed.
“He basically incented me to put up air balls so I could make money for charity but take a hit to my team’s score, so it was a terribly conflicted situation,” Leschly joked, “and all of us are Type A, highly driven folks, so you get up there and don’t want to miss because your team is staring at you.”
“Sure enough, I threw three bricks,” Leschly said.
Kathy Hirst, a vice president at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, had an opposite effect on the crowd. Using an underhanded shooting style, she sank two of her three shots.
“The first one didn’t even hit the rim — it just swished right in,” Leschly said. “She had clearly gamed us all.”
Also at the tourney were Adelene Perkins, CEO of Infinity Pharmaceuticals; Rachel Meyers, senior VP of research at Alnylam; executives and staff members from Agios, Ariad, Bind Therapeutics, Biogen, Ironwood, Moderna, Momenta, Novartis, Shire, Syros, and Visterra; and Special Olympics Massachusetts CEO Mary Beth McMahon.
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