Business & Tech


Mustache or not, retired pilot Sully has some lessons for Boston about people power

Chesley B. Sullenberger III
Chris Morris for The Boston Globe
Chesley B. Sullenberger III

Like Oprah, Madonna, and the Rock, Chesley B. Sullenberger III needs only one name to be instantly identifiable. Sully, the now-retired US Airways pilot, became an international star in 2009 when he and his crew safely landed on the Hudson River after their jet struck a flock of Canada geese.

But Sullenberger, who will be the keynote speaker at the Engage Boston 2018 staffing industry conference on Thursday, no longer has his other most recognizable attribute: his mustache.

After 40 years, he said, his wife convinced him to shave it off. But his bare face rendered him practically anonymous while filming a scene with his fellow crew members that ran during the credits of the 2016 movie “Sully,” starring Tom Hanks in the title role. Luckily, the makeup department had created a fake mustache for Hanks — who didn’t need it because he had grown a real one — so Sullenberger wore it, instead.


“It was created for Tom,” he said, “but Tom didn’t have to wear it to look like me, so I wore the mustache intended for Tom to look like I did in 2009.”

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Sullenberger, 67, won’t be wearing the mustache at the conference, which starts Wednesday, hosted by the Boston staffing software firm Bullhorn. (This year’s theme: “The Power of People.”) But he will be talking about the 208 seconds that changed his life, and how good leaders create environments that allow people to do their best work.

Sullenberger has written two books and made numerous speeches about that January day in 2009, and the universal lessons that came out of it. “What we’re all trying to do is find ways to improve human performance in complicated systems that all involve inherent risk,” he said.

His message is also one of civic duty, especially now that President Trump is in office, he said, noting that he is “as concerned as I’ve ever been in my life” about the state of the country. Although he never mentions Trump by name, he said, “It would be a dereliction of duty not to talk about the elephant in the room.” — KATIE JOHNSTON

Wahlburgers CEO is moving on

Hollywood stars Mark and Donnie Wahlberg are great at opening doors. But it has often been chief executive Rick Vanzura who is closing the deals for the famous family’s Wahlburgers chain of 26 restaurants.


Not for much longer. Wahlburgers announced on Monday that Vanzura is resigning this week from the Hingham-based company that’s owned and overseen by the Wahlberg family.

A former executive at Panera, Vanzura has been with Wahlburgers for more than six years, almost since its inception. Patrick Renna, Wahlburgers’chief financial officer, has been named interim CEO while the company searches for Vanzura’s successor. (Renna also has CEO experience, having run Boloco from mid-2014 to mid-2015.)

Vanzura is leaving for a still-to-be-announced job in the restaurant industry. His new employer isn’t based in Massachusetts, but Vanzura says his family plans to keep their home in Hingham after he changes jobs.

The parting is an amicable one. Donnie Wahlberg issued a statement on behalf of the three brothers, including chef Paul Wahlberg, saying “we are grateful for Rick’s years of tireless dedication to this company and being a key part of our brand growth and franchise development.” — JON CHESTO

Talking football at the bio convention

It was the country’s biggest biotech conference, but Jonathan Kraft was there to talk about football.


Kraft made a return visit to the BIO International Convention in Boston last week, sharing many of the business lessons he learned from his father Robert Kraft’s stewardship of the New England Patriots. (He also attended the 2007 conference.) The Krafts paid more than $170 million in 1994 for the Pats, a money-losing team at the time. “It was a real stretch for us financially in those days,” Kraft said.

The Krafts were big Patriots fans, of course, but they also believed that by treating their sponsors right, they could put together a solid lineup.

“We had 10 new sponsors at a six-figure level within a year,” Kraft said. “Twenty-five years later, all 10 of those sponsors are still partners of ours today. All 10 of them spend seven figures a year with us [today], rather than six figures.”

Courting season ticketholders was crucial, Kraft said, as was assembling the right team. Bill Belichick proved to be one of the smartest hires, when he returned to the Patriots fold in 2000 to be head coach. “He’s not the warmest and fuzziest guy,” Kraft said. “[But] I think Bill might burn to win more today than he did back then.”

Buying the Patriots turned out to be a smart bet for the Krafts. Forbes magazine estimates the team is worth $3.7 billion, making it the second-most-valuable one in the NFL, behind the Dallas Cowboys.

Kraft says the family still sees it as a privilege to own the Patriots, one they don’t take for granted.

“My father always says, ‘If we win on Sunday, we go into the Dunkin’ Donuts,’ ” Kraft said. “If we lose, we go through the drive-thru.” — JON CHESTO

Going to bat for Dana-Farber — and her son

As John Hancock’s chief marketing officer, Barbara Goose knew she would again play a key role in Fenway Fantasy Day. After all, Hancock is the main sponsor of the fund-raising event, held at the ballpark in early June for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But this time around, the event carried personal resonance for Goose: Her 16-year-old son Geoffrey had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and was undergoing treatment at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.

Goose used her ties in the business community to line up a team for a home run derby held at the event. Her team — it included executives from Deloitte, Digitas, Hancock, PerkinElmer, and several other companies — raised roughly $35,000. (The entire John Hancock Fenway Fantasy Day raised about $275,000.)

Geoffrey was there, swinging a bat in the derby. Goose says he is expected to finish his treatment this summer and make a full recovery. Still, facing a life-threatening illness has changed her entire family.

“It’s absolutely the scariest thing that has ever happened to me and my family,” Goose says. “It changes your perspective on everything. Things that would have been stressful or even annoying, you just step back and say, ‘This is nothing like curing cancer.’ ” — JON CHESTO

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