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Friday, June 24, 2011

Med Mart Loses the Kennedy Connection

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 3:32 PM

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The Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center is touted as the cornerstone of the city’s future economic development. But the head of the project’s developer has quit.

Chris Kennedy will step down as president of MMPI on July 23 in order to start other businesses that might spur economic development somewhere else. Eventually.

“I propose that I am young enough to start a new career—and old enough to know how,” Kennedy, 47, said in a statement. First, the son of Robert F. Kennedy and long-time bud of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, will spend more time with his famous family and keep up his charitable activities in Chicago.

MMPI was a shoo-in as Med Mart developer shortly after Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove conceived of the idea and introduced Kennedy to the city players who might have made it happen. Later, Hagan and the county stepped in and made sure it happened— before the old regime left office for prison or other pursuits.

Kennedy’s resignation won’t mean much for the Med Mart though.

“We have a strong team in place here in Cleveland that have been committed to making this project successful from the very start,” says Med Mart general manager Brian Casey. “That after all is what differentiates high performing organizations from the rest.”

MMPI, owner of the Chicago Merchandise Mart and various furniture and showroom marts throughout the country, has not been completely free of economic difficulty. In the spring of 2010 the company defaulted on a large North Carolina furniture mart. A few months later rumors that the Merchandise Mart was for sale surfaced, but MMPI parent company, Vornado Realty, denied them.

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