With the net worth of $2.5 Billion, Penny Pritzker is the #644 richest person on earth all the time in our database.
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She earned an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College in 1981 and both a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Stanford University in 1984.
Penny Pritzker was born in Chicago in 1959, the daughter of Sue (née Sandel) and Donald Pritzker. She is a member of the Pritzker family of Chicago, a wealthy and influential business family. Donald Pritzker was one of the co-founders of Hyatt Hotels. He moved the family to Atherton, California, where business for the Hyatt Hotels began to grow. Penny has two younger brothers, Tony (b. 1961) and J. B. Pritzker (b. 1965).
Young Penny would accompany her father to the hotels and check the cleanliness of the ladies restrooms. In 1972, Don died suddenly of a heart attack when Penny was 13 years old. Following Don's death, Sue began battling depression, requiring Penny to at times care for her mother and her younger brothers. At age 16, Penny wrote a letter to her grandfather, and head of the family business empire, A. N. Pritzker, in which she asked why he talked business with the men in the family and not with her. Finally realizing Penny's interest in business, A. N. provided her with a summer course in accounting.
Penny attended Castilleja School until 1977. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Harvard College in 1981. The following year, Penny's mother died after falling out of the passenger side of a tow truck. Penny returned to school, earning both a Juris Doctor and a Masters of Business Administration from Stanford University in 1985.
After she earned her degrees, Pritzker joined the Pritzker organization encouraged by her cousin Nick Pritzker. In 1987, she founded Classic Residence by Hyatt, later renamed Vi, upscale housing for seniors as an alternative to nursing homes. The project struggled at first, losing $40 million in the first 18 months, but turned around after changes in marketing and management. In 1991, Jay Pritzker, Penny's uncle and head of the Pritzker family businesses, named Penny as the director of the Pritzkers' non-hotel landholdings. With that appointment, Penny created the Pritzker Realty Group, which developed apartment buildings, shopping centers, and the Baldwin Park neighborhood in Orlando, Florida.
From 1991 to 1994, Penny Pritzker was chairperson of the Hinsdale, Illinois-based Superior Bank of Chicago, in which Jay Pritzker had purchased a 50% stake from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, who had taken over the bank when it failed. In 1993 the bank "embarked on a business strategy of significant growth into subprime home mortgages", according to a report by the United States Treasury Department. In 2000 it became clear the bank was faltering. In the months leading up to 2001, the Pritzkers tried to work out a recapitalization plan. In July 2001, the FDIC seized the bank after the recapitalization could not be resolved. Subsequently, the Pritzker family reached an agreement with regulators to pay $460 million.
In 1995, Penny was named as one of three successors to the retiring Jay Pritzker besides his son Tom and his cousin Nick. Tom was named the official head of the businesses, Nick and Penny each named vice-chairman. Together, the three were to oversee the Pritzker family assets. Jay intended to keep the family business together, devising a system of trusts that would allow individual family members to receive money from the trusts to meet their needs; however, the family's wealth was to be primarily maintained in the trusts to grow the businesses and fund philanthropic endeavors. The Pritzker business empire contained over 200 businesses and was valued at $15 billion.
After Jay Pritzker's death in 1999, other Pritzker family members challenged Tom, Nick, and Penny's control of the businesses in multiple lawsuits. Penny's brothers joined in one of the lawsuits. In 2001 Tom, Nick, and Penny decided to sell family assets to allow eleven cousins to receive a share, dissolving the family's business ties. Disentangling the family's business interests took nearly a decade. The family sold its controlling stake in the Marmon Group to Berkshire Hathaway for $4.5 billion in 2008. The Pritzker Realty Group sold Parking Spot, an airport parking management business Penny co-founded in 1998, to Green Courte Partners LLC for $360 million in 2011.
Pritzker is involved in public education. She was a member of the Chicago Board of Education and is past chair of the Chicago Public Education Fund. Pritzker was elected to a six-year term on the Harvard Board of Overseers in 2002. In 2018, she was elected to the President and Fellows of Harvard College, which oversees Harvard University. Pritzker was Advisory Board Chair of Skills for America's Future (SAF), a policy initiative of the Aspen Institute. Pritzker is a former chair of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Starting in 2005, she served as non-executive chairman of TransUnion. In 2009, she co-founded Artemis Real Estate Partners LLC, a real estate investment management company, with Deborah Harmon. In 2011, she founded an investment office, PSP Capital Partners. Altogether, Pritzker started five companies before joining the federal government.
Following Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election, CNN reported that Pritzker was president-elect Obama's top choice for Commerce Secretary. However, Pritzker took herself out of the running. According to the Chicago Tribune, she withdrew her name from consideration "due to obligations to her family, for whom she was still overseeing billions in assets, and the financial crisis, which was putting some of those assets at risk". As a result of her public support for President Obama, Pritzker found herself the target of labor groups for Hyatt Hotels' practices. The president of Unite Here cited her connection to Obama as a reason why the group expected her to use better labor practices as the group staged demonstrations against Pritzker.
Pritzker was a member of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. She also served on the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Although she was less active in the 2012 Obama campaign than she had been four years prior, she served as national co-chair of Obama for America 2012. She was also on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank focused on world affairs and U.S. foreign policy.
In 2012 Chicago magazine named her one of the 100 most powerful Chicagoans. On March 26, 2014, Elle honored Pritzker, with others, at the Italian Embassy in the United States during its annual "Women in Washington Power List".
Pritzker was nominated as United States Secretary of Commerce by President Barack Obama on May 2, 2013. To avoid conflicts of interest, Pritzker agreed to sell her interest in at least 221 companies and resign from 158 entities, including the Hyatt Board of Directors and the Chicago Board of Education. Later that month, on May 23, the Senate held its confirmation hearing, which covered a variety of topics. Although Pritzker's family business dealings had been a target of Republican criticism when Obama announced her nomination, only three questions at the hearing related to her family. Pritzker was confirmed by the full Senate on June 25, by a vote of 97 to 1. Pritzker was sworn in as Secretary on June 26, 2013.
In the 1980s, Pritzker completed her first Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Pritzker trained for six months and ultimately finished the race in 12 hours. In addition to competing in triathlons, Pritzker has also run marathons. Pritzker is married to ophthalmologist Bryan Traubert, with whom she has two children. Although her relationship with her brothers became strained following the family business restructuring, they eventually reconciled, and Penny expressed support for the idea of younger brother J. B. running for office in 2017.
In February 2018, Pritzker was elected to succeed Harvey V. Fineberg as chairperson of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, taking effect May 2018.
In March 2020, Pritzer set up the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, to assist non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, after receiving a call from her brother, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker. The siblings announced the creation of the fund with $23 million in start up money on March 24, 2020, six days after Governor Pritzker's request. Pritzker and her husband contributed $1.5 million of the initial sum.
Currently, Penny Pritzker is 61 years old. Penny Pritzker will celebrate 62nd birthday on Sunday, May 2, 2021.
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