Debra A. Cafaro – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ventas, Inc.


Ventas, Inc. is an S&P 500 company that owns more than 1,600 healthcare and senior living properties in North America and the United Kingdom. In this Executive Spotlight, Cafaro, a World Business Chicago board member, talks about doing business and living in Chicago.

Debra A. Cafaro is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Ventas, Inc., an S&P 500 company with over $35 billion in enterprise value that owns more than 1,600 healthcare and senior living properties in North America and the United Kingdom.

Under Ms. Cafaro’s leadership starting in 1999, Ventas’ market capitalization rose from $200 million to nearly $25 billion. The company’s compound annual total shareholder return was 29 percent for the fifteen-year period ending 12/31/14. Additionally, Ventas was named the top performing publicly traded financial company for the first decade of this century, and Fortune Magazine ranked it as one of its “Most Admired” real estate company globally in 2013.

Ventas announced it would move its corporate headquarters to Chicago in 2008, and Cafaro joined World Business Chicago’s board of directors in 2011.

Debra CafaroQUESTION: Why do you live in Chicago?

ANSWER: I learned how great it is to live in Chicago when I was a student at the University of Chicago; our city provides the best combination of all U.S. cities to start a career, build a business, raise a family, and enjoy sports, music, culture and the lakefront.

QUESTION: What is the best thing about running a business in Chicago?

ANSWER: Our Mayor is excellent; he is focused on growing the economy, improving the educational system, and building vibrant businesses. Ventas is an S&P 500 real estate company, and Chicago is a real estate city. Ventas benefits from being part of a deep, thriving corporate and real estate community.

QUESTION: How would you explain to your stakeholders that Chicago is the best location for your company?

ANSWER: With an enterprise value exceeding $35 billion, Ventas owns more than 1,600 seniors housing and healthcare properties globally, so travel efficiency is essential to our success. Chicago is the perfect hub for our team to visit our customers, properties and stakeholders.

QUESTION: How would you describe Chicago’s business community?

ANSWER: The business community is innovative and committed to the health and well-being of Chicago and its citizens. It is also welcoming to newcomers and entrepreneurs. Companies based in Chicago know that they must invest in the city, its citizens and communities in order to maximize their business success; and the City realizes that businesses are essential to job creation, a broad and healthy middle class, education funding, the arts, philanthropy, and public services.

QUESTION: How does your company take advantage of Chicago’s diverse economy, talented workforce, and access to the world?

ANSWER:

Diverse economy

We benefit from Chicago’s world-class professional services and the healthcare innovation provided by our leading hospitals.

Talented workforce

Our success, including our 14-year total return to shareholders of 29 percent, derives from the hard work and

commitment of our team. Chicago attracts a diverse and well-educated workforce, and our great universities educate the best and brightest, including Booth and Kellogg MBAs.

Access to the world

Investments are essential to our success, and each potential deal requires extensive travel by our team. We are so much more effective because our airports are gateways to everywhere we need to go.

QUESTION: When entertaining clients or business associates, where do you go and what do you do?

ANSWER: We take full advantage of the city’s fantastic activities. The Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears offer big-time excitement. We’ve entertained on the architectural boat tour and a cruise on the lake. We dine with board members, guests and colleagues at Chicago Cut, Coco Pazzo, Roka Akor and Piccolo Sogno Due. We’ve hosted annual employee events at the Adler Planetarium, Lincoln Park Zoo and Ravinia.

QUESTION: If you were to describe Chicago to a friend or family member that has not visited, what would you say?

ANSWER: Chicago is an architecturally and physically beautiful American city, with an incredible cityscape and lakefront, and wonderful energy. It has a diverse population that benefits from a strong immigrant influence, terrific food, great universities, an active business community and world-class activities. It’s also a city of hard workers.  

QUESTION: What area do you live in and what are its advantages?
ANSWER: I’ve lived in Hyde Park, DePaul, River Forest and the northern suburbs, and each has unique charms. Both of our children attended New Trier, which is also an incredible educational asset to the Chicago area.

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