Chicago selects PPP advisor as CFO

Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel chose Scott Balice Strategies co-founder Lois Scott as chief financial officer. She will be joined by Baker & McKenzie infrastructure lawyer Alexandra Holt, who will serve as budget director. The appointments come as Chicago faces decisions on several PPP transactions.

Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel has selected the head of an advisory firm specialising in public-private partnerships and an infrastructure lawyer to help manage the city's finances.

Emanuel, a Democrat, appointed Lois Scott, co-founder of Scott Balice Strategies, as chief financial officer, and infrastructure privatisation lawyer Alexandra Holt to be the city’s budget director, according to a statement.

Lois Scott

The appointments come as the city – already famous for having closed more infrastructure deals than any other large American city – is considering a big-ticket public-private partnership for a bullet train connecting O’Hare airport with downtown Chicago. The city must also decide by 31 July whether to re-bid Midway Airport, which would constitute the largest airport privatisation in the US.

Holt advised one of the consortia that bid to acquire Midway Airport, according to the Baker & McKenzie website. A spokesperson for Baker & McKenzie declined to specify which consortium Holt advised. The deal fell apart in April 2009 because the winning consortium, led by Citi Infrastructure Investors, was not able to secure $2.5 billion needed to finance the 99-year lease on Midway.

In previous remarks, Emanuel has indicated that he would not continue to pursue privatisation of the airport.

Alexandra Holt

Emanuel will take office on 16 May. At that time, Scott will step into the city's chief financial officer role and her responsibilities at Scott Balice will cease, according to a statement from the firm. Scott Balice has advised city governments on several major public-private partnerships, including attempts by Pittsburgh and Los Angeles to privatise their parking systems. Both transactions failed because their respective city councils voted them down.

Chicago, in contrast, has consistently been able to close on such transactions. Dana Levenson, the city's chief financial officer from 2004 to 2007, helped usher in several large infrastructure deals, including the $563 million lease of the city’s underground parking garages and the $1.83 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway. A third deal, a $1.16 billion lease of the city's parking meters, closed in February 2009.  

Both Holt and Scott will serve on Emanuel’s newly created Council on Budget, Business Development and Economic Issues. The council will be chaired by Deputy Mayor Mark Angelson, a former executive at publishing company RR Donnelly.