by Pamela Lannom, Editor
When I first met Craig Bouchard in July 2010, he told me about his business endeavors (owning oil companies, the Naples Bath and Tennis Club, and a steel company with $4 billion in revenue, to name a few). Then he surprised me with the comment that he thought his greatest accomplishment would be the children’s novel he was finishing.
Completing the novel took a little longer than he expected. But he’s finally ready to launch it — and the accompanying video game and soundtrack — at a press event July 16 at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago (more on that later).
What happened in the interim? He got a little sidetracked.
He led his second hostile takeover on Wall Street, taking on Sam Zell for ownership of a company called Signature Group Holdings.
“Sam and I got to know each other in the process. Sam supported me at the end of the hostile and it was all resolved very friendly and we became one big happy partnership,” he said.
He also released his second book, “The Caterpillar Way,” in October, his second collaboration with co-writer with Jim Koch. The book was No. 1 at Barnes & Noble for a few days and was No. 8 on the New York Times best-seller list for four weeks.
All the while he continued to work on “Adventures of Ai,” a novel aimed at empowering girls ages 9 to 14.
“I had to decide two years ago if I was going to try to publish this book or if it was just an exercise about leaving messages behind for my daughters,” he said.
In addition to three grown sons, Bouchard is father to three young daughters attending HMS and Madison: Shale, Cambelle and Braidy.
Jaunique Sealey, a woman who works for Bouchard (and happens to be Lady Gaga’s former social media manager and a Harvard Law School graduate) encouraged him to avoid the standard publishing route, in which he would sign away rights to the material.
“She just sat down and said, ‘Craig, you’re book is too good. Don’t just give it away,’ ” he said.
Bouchard thought the novel, set in Japan in 1514, could have global appeal if he could figure out how to distribute it broadly. The answer was to embed the book inside a video game and sell it as an app.
“The book is very conducive to being a video game because it’s an adventure of a girl in the wild with animals and treasure and danger,” he said, comparing it to Temple Run.
Not surprisingly, he found some big names to assist with the project. The game was designed by Kalani Streicher, former head of video games for Lucasfilm. The soundtrack was produced by 16-time Grammy winner Humberto Gatica. Apple and Google have partnered with him on the release.
“Right now the estimate is we should get about 5 million downloads of the game globally,” he said.
The game, Ai’s Adventures, also has a charity component, with 10 percent of global revenue going to one or more charities in the country where the kids compile the highest score.
“For the first time every kid who plays a game is playing to make a change in the world,” Bouchard said.
Lurie, the hospital where Dr. Marlita Reynolds operated twice on Cambelle, was an easy choice for a U.S. charity. So was Misericordia, where his wife’s brother has lived for 36 years.
You can hear the passion in his voice when he talks about the project, especially in comparison to his corporate successes.
“They don’t amount to a hill of beans compared to this for me because you could really make a difference in the world,” he said.
He said if he can empower 100 little girls and change the way they live their lives, that will be an “unbelievable contribution.”
Let’s all hope he succeeds.