Peter Thompson

CEO Peter Thompson said about 90 percent of Perkins Investment Management's clients are national or global and "wouldn't know Richard Daley if they sat next to him on an airplane." (Chicago Tribune illustration by Rick Tuma / September 2, 2014)

Like many executives running multibillion-dollar businesses, Peter Thompson adorns his office with photos of him meeting U.S. presidents. But there's one big difference: In some of them, he's a mere child.

A nephew of Richard M. Daley and grandson of Richard J. Daley, both longtime Chicago mayors, Thompson particularly remembers his encounter with President Gerald Ford. In a photo on his wall, Thompson and his younger brother, Patrick, wear identical leisure suits as they approach Ford to greet him on his visit to Chicago.

Look closely, and you can see that the brothers are mistakenly wearing each other's jackets, with Peter's too snug and Patrick's oversized.

"The picture would be even more entertaining if it were in color," he said, because both outfits were canary yellow.

More than 30 years later, Thompson is the dark-suited chief executive of Perkins Investment Management, which is 80 percent owned by the $148 billion-asset Janus Capital Group Inc. of Denver. Perkins, run from the 60th floor of a South Wacker Drive office building, manages $18.1 billion in assets, up from almost $11 billion when Thompson joined. The growth has come from stock market gains and additional money sent its way by new and existing investors.

Personable and a natural networker, Thompson, 43, seems to have the potential makings of a political candidate. His brother, Patrick, is the first of their generation to seek public office as he runs for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Peter Thompson hasn't shown that inclination so far, but never say never.

"I love business," Thompson said, pointing to the example set by his former boss, John Rogers. The Ariel Investments founder and CEO stays active in politics without making it his day job. Still, Thompson said, "I wouldn't rule anything out."

Bill Daley, his uncle and the former White House chief of staff, said Thompson has a great career ahead of him in business.

"He seems to be focused on business and the financial services sector," Daley said. "I don't see his interest" in entering politics.

Sitting for a 9 a.m. interview in his office recently, Thompson popped open a can of Diet Coke.

"Gotta support Uncle Rich now," he joked, referring to the former mayor's appointment to Coke's board of directors.

But about 90 percent of Perkins' clients are national or global and "wouldn't know Richard Daley if they sat next to him on an airplane," said Thompson, who that evening left on a business trip to London. Later that month, he would make trips to Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, Palm Beach, Hong Kong, Beijing and Minneapolis. "It rarely comes up at all in business for me."

Perkins seeks to maintain its reputation as a conservative, "sleep at night" money manager by minimizing losses when the market is falling. Its funds with the longest track records — the small-cap value, the mid-cap value, the large-cap value and the global value — have largely accomplished that goal, says one mutual fund industry observer.

"Perkins funds have struck a nice balance, generating very strong long-term returns relative to peers, with less volatility," said Morningstar analyst Katie Reichart. "Although the funds typically don't lead the way in growth markets, they've historically lost less money than peers in downturns, as was the case during 2008's financial crisis."

That makes those funds easy for investors to own and has contributed to their "impressive records," she said.

Key contacts

Thompson was born in the summer of 1968 in Chicago. His mother is the eldest of Richard J. and Eleanor "Sis" Daley's seven children. Born onSt. Patrick's Dayand named Patricia, she was a public school teacher for most of her career.

His dad, William Paul Thompson, was the son of Chicago police Officer Theodore "Spats" Thompson. William Thompson worked for Rubloff Properties on such projects as Sandburg Village. In the early 1980s, he went on his own and built some Uptown high-rises near Montrose and Broadway avenues.

Peter's parents divorced when he was 4. He, his mother and two siblings moved from the North Side to live next door to his Daley grandparents in Bridgeport. His mother remarried about 20 years later. His father died in 2000 of lung cancer at 63.