Chris McGowan is the General Partner of CJM Ventures (“CJMV”), a Chicago private-equity investment firm. McGowan’s private equity career began 22 years ago with AEA Investors in New York City, after earning an undergraduate degree in theoretical mathematics from Columbia University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and following two years of mergers and acquisitions training at Morgan Stanley.
After completing an MBA at Harvard Business School, he joined Madison Dearborn Partners (“MDP”), where he co-headed their basic industries practice for the last five years of his 12-year career there. At MDP, he oversaw more than $2 billion of equity investments focused on growth equity and buyouts globally in the industrial, consumer, and energy and power sectors. He continues to serves on the board of prior MDP portfolio company Boise Cascade (Chairman of Audit Committee, NYSE: BCC) and formerly served on or advised the boards of Smurfit Kappa Group (LN: SKG), BWAY Holdings, FirstWind, US Power Generating, OPENLANE, The Illinois Venture Capital Association, and others.
In 2011, with the help of mentors from MDP, McGowan formed CJMV, a private equity firm focused on buyouts and growth equity investments in companies located near Chicago. CJMV’s portfolio has grown to five companies, including OPTO International, an Illinois-based manufacturer of retail shelving and display systems; Cedar Capital, a Chicago-based asset management firm; and Autism Home Support Services (“AHSS”), the largest provider in Illinois of home-based therapy for children on the autism spectrum. He is also a member of the Advisory Boards of BigStep Cloud, Rise Interactive, Inc. and Spikeball, Inc.
Since Spring 2012, McGowan has taught at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business (“Booth”), and currently serves there as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, and as an Entrepreneur in Residence and Senior Advisor to Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In Fall 2016, he begins his sixth year teaching Booth’s Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge, his fourth year co-teaching Booth’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab, and second year conducting the Oxford-Chicago Global Private Equity Challenge.
McGowan is an active angel investor and currently serves as Chairman of the Limited Partner Advisory Committee for Hyde Park Venture Partners Fund I (and a member of Fund II’s Board), on the Board of Directors and Portfolio Advisory Board of Hyde Park Angels, and as Chairman of the Advisory Board for Valley Growth Ventures.
McGowan married his Stuyvesant high school sweetheart, Sandy Wang (’88), and they have three children: one attending Walter Payton College Prep, and two attending the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools (“Lab”). At Lab, McGowan has served for six years on its Board of Directors and recently completed four years of leadership of Lab’s Development Committee (two as Chair, two as Co-Chair), including oversight for Lab+, the School’s recently completed $80 million capital campaign. McGowan is also on the Board of Trustees for the Court Theatre at the University of Chicago, and the Board of Friends of Walter Payton College Prep (Chair, Annual Fund).