Donovan presided over the Chicago Board of Trade for nearly two decades. After holding several prominent positions in the Chicago city government, including administrative assistant to Mayor Richard Daley, he joined the CBOT as secretary in 1979 and was appointed president and chief executive officer in 1982. He resigned in 2000.
Heading the CBOT, he was a master politician, raising the profile of the futures industry in Washington. He also led the CBOT into the era of electronic trading with the introduction of an electronic trading platform named "Project A."
In 1984, FIA members, seeking to improve relations between futures commission merchants and exchanges, elected him to the FIA’s board of directors, and subsequently to the executive committee. He also has served on the board of directors of the National Futures Association.
During his tenure as CBOT president, the exchange launched an alliance to offer trading of fixed income securities and other over-the-counter products on the CBOT's Chicago Board Brokerage ("CBB") electronic trading system. The alliance included Liberty Brokerage Investment Corp. and Prebon Yamane, which acquired 49% of CBB through a venture named Hudson Holdings.
In 1999, then CBOT Chairman David Brennan attempted to oust Donovan as CBOT president, a failed attempt that led to Brennan issuing a public apology. Donovan subsequently resigned in April of 2000 after 18 years as a senior executive at the CBOT. He resigned with three years left on his contract, but pocketed a reported $10 million dollars in a buy-out package. Donovan was replaced on an interim basis for Board of Trade Clearing Corporation CEO Dennis Dutterer until David Vitale was hired in March of 2001.
Donovan graduated from City Colleges of Chicago, a community college.
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