5 Questions with...Billy Dec

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5 Questions with...Billy Dec

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guest ... one of the nations premier and most popular dining and entertainment entrepreneurs -- however, our guest this week is more than that ... he's become a city leader for his 24/7 philanthropic work helping those in need around the world ... plus, his venues around the city continue to attract the biggest names in both sports and entertainment a Chicago native who continues to give our city a good name, here are 5 Questions with ... BILLY DEC!

BIO: Billy Dec is an Emmy Award Winning Entertainment TV Host and CEO ... Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, Chicago's premier restaurant and entertainment development company, specializing in the creation, marketing and management of some of the city's top venues including Rockit Bar and Grill, Rockit Wrigley, The Underground and most recently his New Asian restaurant Sunda.

Dec's educational background includes the University of Illinois where he majored in EconomicsPre-Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law & the Harvard Business School. He has received numerous awards including Operator of the Year from the Nightclub & Bar Conference, Excellence in Business Award from the State of Illinois, the Asian American Hall of Fame Award, The Byrne Piven Community Service Award and the Cook County States Attorneys Asian Pacific American Community Leadership Award and Chicago-Kent College of Law Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

Dec is also actively involved in various committees and boards for non-profit organizations in Chicago, including: American Cancer Society; Make-A-Wish Foundation; After School Matters; the formerly held Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, where he served as Director of Cultural Relations; and Lookingglass Theatre Company. Billy also enjoys participating annually in Mayor Daleys Chicago Public Schools Principal for a Day.

Dec writes his own blog on www.BillyDec.com about Chicago and its culturally rich entertainment landscape, where his contact info, press pages and upcoming events calendar are also posted, along with his much talked about www.twitter.combillydec & www.facebook.combillydec.

1) CSNChicago.com: Billy, thanks for taking time out of your always-hectic schedule to spend a few minutes answering the 5 Questions we have for you today. Lets get right to it ... your success story is off-the-charts impressive as you have grown your brand to levels that other business entrepreneurs can only dream about. Outside of your own personal drive and vision, what would you say has been the single most important element to the overall success of your business ventures?

Dec: Finding great partners, managers, employees...who share the same passion, ethics, drive, commitment, vision ... has really been the key for our successful growth thus far. Granted, that has taken a lot of personal drive to figure out, work for & develop, but our team is the most important part of our success. Not me, trends, location, celebrity, pricing, design, recipes or any one person or one thing out there. And by the way, for those that think that is a B.S. easy answer that I'm just throwing out there to be politically warm fuzzy & swell, try building a well-working team of 500 primarily young aggressive adults in one of the most cut- throat, high-pressured industries with the highest expectations from consumers in the middle of the worst recession we have ever seen.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youve received countless honors for both your business and philanthropic efforts, including recognition from President Obama. Some truly amazing accomplishments in your not even decade-old career. However, there's one accomplishment in particular that is very intriguing to us and thats your Emmy-winning documentary, Journey to Sunda. Tell us what prompted you to take that voyage to Asia and specifically how it influenced you to open up one of Chicago's most popular new eateries, Sunda.

Dec: We knew we wanted to open a unique Asian concept before the travel. In fact, all the travel through Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore was strategically planned to insure we were able to discover new things that didn't really exist in Chicago yet, so that it would be unique in food, presentation, culture, philosophy, design & more. As we have always prided ourselves on being innovators & filling voids in the entertainment & hospitality scene in what we think is the greatest city in the world Chicago, the video just naturally evolved out of our love for entertaining and telling the story.

I first compiled my travel pics into a book, then responded to requests for a copy of my book by making and gifting a thousand of them to friends and customers, then responded to even more requests to see the story of our discovery through word of mouth. So I compiled it all into a mini travel doc that I posted to the internet called "Journey to Sunda! It was a hit, it filled a void, it was innovative and a great story. Tomorrow morning, I actually leave for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand... as the Journey never ends. Follow that story on my Twitter & Facebook as I love sharing in real time now!

3) CSNChicago.com: As we all well know, Chicago is no doubt one of the worlds premier and diverse cultural gems. In your opinion, what makes Chicago and its citizens unique when compared to, lets say, New York or LA for example?

Dec: When I was Director of Cultural Relations for the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, I asked 50 celebrity friends a very similar question on camera and aired one a day each day leading up to the official decision in Copenhagen (all on www.aChicagoThing.com ... a must see ...they are so good)! I agree with them when most shared how Chicagoans were a very unique & desirable mix of personable, reasonable, hardworking, honest, diverse, sports loving, food savvy, proud, sophisticated, hospitable, cosmopolitan, grounded... people from all different backgrounds who just love their community.

4) CSNChicago.com: In addition to everything else you have going on, you have been featured lately as an actor in several movies and TV series. Is this a new direction you see yourself focusing on even more in the years to come or is it more of a side hobby for you?

Dec: Part of me wants to say acting is a hobby because I kind of just picked it up & I love it. The other part of me says its still business as we always look to entertain in new ways at Rockit Ranch, which acting ultimately is, and I love what I do here no matter what it is!

I really haven't thought about it enough, I guess? I mean, its such an amazing experience to be on a huge set like "Entourage" or "Nightmare on Elm Street"...or a small stage pretending to be someone else. I will say, having hosted TV shows NBC & Metromix in the past, it has given me a lot of confidence in getting in front of the camera to entertain in whatever capacity. So I guess we'll just have to see. Here is my reel if want to see some of my past stuff!

5) CSNChicago.com: For any young entrepreneurs out there aspiring to be a Billy Dec one day, what would you consider to be the three most important steps in becoming a success in business -- and life for that matter?

Dec: Hmmmm...here is a link to some lessons my dad taught me before he passed away. Maybe this will help.

BONUS QUESTION! CSNChicago.com: This will definitely be an easy one. Are there any upcoming Rockit Ranch Production events or charitable functions you can share with CSNChicago.com readers? Tell us, we want to hear about them!

Dec: We allllllwaaaaays have stuff going on! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to be the first to hear the invites announced and to be connected to all of the goodness as it happens!

Dec LINKS:

Billy Dec Official Website

Rockit Ranch Productions Official Website

Rockit Bar and Grill

The Underground

Sunda New Asian

Billy Dec on Facebook

Billy Dec on Twitter

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

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USA TODAY

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

Michigan's March magic finally ran out.

The guy who's been so fantastic throughout his senior season, point guard Derrick Walton Jr., missed a game-winning 3-point try at the buzzer, and the Wolverines fell to the Oregon Ducks by a 69-68 final score in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was an incredibly competitive game between the Big Ten Tournament champs and the Pac-12 regular-season champs, with neither side ever leading by more than six.

But Moe Wagner, who scored a career-high 26 points in Michigan's second-round win over Louisville, was pretty much a non-factor in this one, scoring just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Still, seniors Walton and Zak Irvin kept an unusually cold-shooting group of Wolverines alive with a combined 39 points, 23 of which came after halftime. D.J. Wilson also scored in double figures with 12, all coming on 3-pointers.

But Michigan, which had been on fire offensively for much of the last month, shot just 43.1 percent from the field and missed 20 of its 31 shots from behind the arc.

The Wolverines actually shot under 40 percent over the opening 20 minutes as the two defenses did good work for these typically high-scoring squads. Michigan turned the ball over seven times before the break but trailed by just two as it went to the locker room.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued at the outset of the second half before Oregon reached its game-high six-point lead, but Michigan responded with seven straight and grabbed its first lead of the second half around the 11-minute mark. The Ducks answered that mini surge with six straight of their own, part of a larger 10-4 spurt, before Wilson and Walton hit back-to-back triples to once again give the Wolverines a narrow advantage, this time with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Oregon and Irvin traded buckets from there, and a Walton jumper was Michigan's sixth straight make from the field, putting the Wolverines up three with under two minutes to play. But Michigan didn't score again, and Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey got back-to-back layups, the latter the game-winning one ahead of Walton's missed 3-point attempt as time ran out.

Dorsey was fantastic for the Ducks, scoring 20 points, his sixth straight game with at least 20 points. Bell had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Oregon advanced to its second straight Elite Eight with the win.

Michigan's entertaining end-of-season run is over. Entering Thursday night's game in Kansas City, the Wolverines had won seven straight and 10 of their last 12. Those two losses came by a combined seven points. Add this loss in and just eight points separated Michigan from 13 consecutive wins.

Certainly this group of Wolverines will be remembered for its sensational four wins in four days at the Big Ten Tournament after that horrifying aborted takeoff, as well as for reaching the third Sweet Sixteen in the last five seasons under John Beilein.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs president Theo Epstein showed zero interest in playing along with Fortune magazine putting him on the cover and ranking him No. 1 on the list of "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders," or two spots ahead of Pope Francis.

"The pope didn't have as good of a year," manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday, channeling Babe Ruth.

Epstein essentially bit his tongue, responding to reporters with a copy-and-paste text message that reflected his self-awareness and PR savvy. 

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein wrote. "The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball – a pastime involving a lot of chance. If (Ben) Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. 

"And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Epstein obviously has a big ego. No one becomes the youngest general manager in baseball history and builds three World Series winners without a strong sense of confidence and conviction. But he genuinely tries to deflect credit, keep a relatively low profile and stay focused on the big picture. 

Fortune's cover art became an older image of Epstein standing at the dugout, surrounded by reporters during a Wrigley Field press gaggle. (This was not Alex Rodriguez kissing a mirror during a magazine photo shoot.) The text borrowed from Tom Verducci's upcoming "The Cubs Way" book. 
 
Fortune still hit an Internet sweet spot and generated a lot of buzz, ranking Epstein ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (No. 4), Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (No. 7) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (No. 10).

"I'm all about the pope," Maddon said. "Sorry, Pope Francis. We're buds. I'd like to meet him someday. But after all, what we did last year was pretty special. 

"Has the pope broken any 108-year-old curses lately?"

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Cubs tickets right here!]

Epstein also ended an 86-year drought for the Boston Red Sox, putting the finishing touches on the immortal 2004 team and winning another championship in 2007 with eight homegrown players. 

No matter how the Cubs try to airbrush history now, that five-year plan featured lucky breaks, unexpected twists and turns and payroll frustrations as the franchise went from 101 losses in 2012 to 103 wins last season. But even after the biggest party Chicago has ever seen, no team in baseball is better positioned for the future. And there is no doubt that Epstein is a Hall of Fame executive.  

"He's very good at setting something up and then permitting people to do their jobs," Maddon said. "That's the essence of good leadership, the ability to delegate well. But then he also has the tough conversations. 

"He sees both sides. I've talked about his empathy before. I think that sets him apart from a lot of the young groups that are leading Major League Baseball teams right now. You know if you have to talk to him about something, he's got an open ear and he's going to listen to what you say. He's not going to go in there predetermined. 

"You can keep going on and on, him just obviously being very bright, brilliant actually. He's got so many great qualities about him. But he leads well, I think, primarily because of his empathy."

That blend of scouting and analytics, open-minded nature and pure guts led to the Cubs: drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber; trading for Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell and almost their entire bullpen; and signing transformative free agents like Jon Lester and Zobrist.            

Chairman Tom Ricketts locked up Epstein before the playoffs started last October with a five-year extension believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $50 million. Arrieta didn't laugh off the Fortune rankings.

"It just shows you all the positive that's he done," Arrieta said. "Not only here, but beforehand in Boston and what he's built for himself and for the city of Boston and the city of Chicago. It's hard to understate what he means to the organization."