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From New York to Vegas to Fox Valley

Updated: March 25, 2014 6:19AM



From banking to babes, there are some impressive headlines coming out of the Fox Valley recently in big business and entertainment.

Sugar Grove resident Jim Gibson leaves for Las Vegas this week, where on Saturday he will host the Las Vegas International Model Search that he also created and produced in conjunction with the MGM Grand and its new $120 million Hakkasan restaurant and club.

Tough job if you can get it — right, guys?

Gibson, a friend I met years ago when I wrote a story about him proposing to his wife, Naperville dentist Chiann Gibson, has been a top name in the pageant world, including serving as director of Donald Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant. This event is a little different, Gibson says, “because it’s a cross between the Miss Universe Pageant, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and a New York fashion show.” It’s also unique because the newly crowed top model will get $50,000 in cash and prizes as well as the chance to model for MGM.

Celebrity judges, in addition to some VIPs competing in the Million Dollar Black Jack Tournament that same day, include folks such as Robin Leach, Holly Madison (Hugh Hefner’s ex-girlfriend) and world-renowned DJ Tiesto, who just signed a $30 million contract with Hakkasan.

Gibson said he approached MGM with the idea of creating a classy model search for women around the world because, outside the U.S., there are limited options. Fifty women from 19 countries will be competing. The plan is to create two more model searches a year for MGM, but he said other casinos have approached him about similar events in and out of the country.

The second part of this column also involves figures, though a decidedly less-interesting kind.

In the more important but stodgier world of banking, Aurora’s very own Old Second made the New York Times recently as the focus of a story titled “Bailout gave small bank a chance to survive.”

According to the story, more than 700 banks received TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money, most of them unknown outside their hometowns. While many of those banks failed anyway, others prospered, and the government made money while saving them.

Old Second National Bank, which dates back to 1871 here, was on a disastrous road as well, according to the story.

While Old Second avoided some of the real estate pitfalls other banks made by investing in places such as Vegas and Phoenix, the bank put too many of its investment eggs into local development.

The article explained that, in January 2009, the government bailed out Old Second with a $73 million investment in preferred stock and warrants. And that turned out to be critical because one by one these land developers went broke. “By 2010, the bank’s non-performing assets were greater than its capital, which is not a recipe for survival,” stated the article. “After those results were reported, the regulators stepped in and put the bank under close watch. The bank brought in a new chief credit officer, closed some branches, sold assets and laid off employees. It also expanded its money management business.”

As recently as a year ago, it did not look as if these steps were working, the article stated. But the bank reports it was profitable in the first nine months of 2013. Last month, the bank’s holding company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell common shares.

That’s what I’d call another model story.



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