J. B. Pritzker

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J. B. Pritzker
J.B. Pritzker Chicago Hack Night 53 (cropped).png
43rd Governor of Illinois
Assumed office
January 14, 2019
LieutenantJuliana Stratton
Preceded byBruce Rauner
Personal details
Jay Robert Pritzker

(1965-01-19) January 19, 1965 (age 54)
Atherton, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mary Muenster (m. 1993)
RelativesPritzker family
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
EducationDuke University (BA)
Northwestern University (JD)
Net worthUS$3.2 billion (June 2019)[1]
WebsiteGovernment website

Jay Robert Pritzker (born January 19, 1965), known as J. B. Pritzker, is an American businessman, philanthropist and politician serving as the 43rd Governor of Illinois since 2019. He is a private business owner based in Chicago and a managing partner and co-founder of the Pritzker Group and a member of the Pritzker family who own the Hyatt hotel chain; he has an estimated personal net worth of $3.2 billion.[1]

Pritzker was the Democratic nominee for governor of Illinois in the 2018 gubernatorial election.[2] He defeated Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner in the general election on November 6, 2018.[3] As governor, he holds more private wealth than any other governor in U.S. history and is the second-wealthiest U.S. politician to have ever held office, after Michael Bloomberg.

Early life, family, and education[edit]

Pritzker was born and raised in Atherton, California, a member of a Jewish family prominent in business and philanthropy during the late 20th century.[4][5] The Pritzkers are consistently named near the top of the Forbes "America's Richest Families" list since its 1982 inception.[6] One of three children of Sue (née Sandel) and Donald Pritzker,[7][8] his elder siblings being Penny Pritzker, former United States Secretary of Commerce, and Anthony Pritzker.[9] Pritzker is named after both of his father's brothers, Jay and Bob.[10]

He attended Massachusetts boarding school Milton Academy and then graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. Pritzker went on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern University School of Law. He is an attorney and a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.

Business career[edit]

Pritzker served as chairman of ChicagoNEXT,[11] Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's council on innovation and technology, and he founded 1871,[12] (named for the year of the Great Chicago Fire), Chicago's digital startup center. He played an important role in the creation of the Illinois Venture Capital Association and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. He also co-founded Chicago Ventures and funded the startup of Techstars Chicago and Built in Chicago.[13]

Together with his brother Tony, Pritzker co-founded Pritzker Group Private Capital, which owns and operates middle-market companies. The group includes a growing family of companies including pallet rental leader PECO Pallet and medical device maker Clinical Innovations. In 2008, Pritzker received the Entrepreneurial Champion Award from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce for his efforts to promote economic development and job creation.[14][15]

Political career[edit]

In the 2008 presidential election, Pritzker served as national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign. He was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He supported President Barack Obama in the 2008 general election and helped bring the Clinton and Obama campaigns in Illinois together.[16]

Pritzker founded Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century,[17] a national organization dedicated to attracting voters under the age of 40 to the Democratic Party. He also served on the Washington, D.C., legislative staffs of U.S. Senator Terry Sanford (D-NC), U.S. Senator Alan J. Dixon (D-IL), and U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), for whom he handled multiple domestic and international issues.

In 1998, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois's 9th congressional district, spending a half million dollars from his personal fortune on television ads in the Chicago market.[18] Pritzker finished last among three candidates in the Democratic primary, receiving 20.48% of the vote, to then State Representative Jan Schakowsky's 45.14% and State Senator Howard W. Carroll's 34.40%.[19]

Rod Blagojevich FBI wiretap[edit]

In May 2017, the Chicago Tribune[20] published an 11-minute FBI wiretap of Pritzker and then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008 discussing campaign contributions and options for Pritzker to be appointed to statewide office.[21] At the time, Pritzker was described as a "businessman with political ambitions". On the tapes, Blagojevich asked Pritzker if he would like to be appointed state treasurer, to which Pritzker responded, "Yeah, that's the one I would want." The tapes have raised questions of "pay to play politics", with both Republicans and Democrats, including incumbent GOP Governor Bruce Rauner and Pritzker's Democratic primary opponents, taking issue with Pritzker's conduct.[22] Pritzker has responded to the allegations by stating: "I've not been accused of any wrongdoing. I have not done anything wrong."[23] No allegations of wrongdoing were ever made by law enforcement against Pritzker, and Pritzker has said: "over decades of my life, I have been doing public service, and the opportunity to continue to do public service as treasurer of the state was something that had been brought up, and so there was a conversation about that."[24]

2018 Illinois gubernatorial campaign[edit]

Campaign logo

On April 6, 2017, Pritzker announced he was running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois. His campaign received the endorsements of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, former Illinois Congressman Glenn Poshard, more than a dozen members of the Illinois General Assembly, twenty-one local labor unions, and the Illinois AFL-CIO.[25]

On August 10, 2017, Pritzker announced that his running mate would be State Representative Juliana Stratton.[26] By December 2017, Pritzker had spent US$42 million of his own wealth on his campaign, without significant fundraising from any other source.[27] On March 20, 2018, he won the Democratic gubernatorial primary. In the November general election, Pritzker defeated incumbent Republican governor Bruce Rauner. Pritzker received 54% of the vote, while Rauner received 39%.[28] By the time of his election, Pritzker had spent US$171.5 million of his own wealth on his campaign, primarily on digital outreach, television advertising, and staff.[29]

Governor of Illinois[edit]

Pritzker was inaugurated as the 43rd Governor on January 14, 2019.


In his first official act as Govenor, he signed his first executive order which will usher in a renewed era of transparency among state agencies.[30]

On January 17,2019 Govenor Pritzker signed a bill requiring state certification for gun dealers.[31] Days later, he joined the U.S Climate alliance which was made after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.[32]

On April 1,2019 he created the Youth Parole system for the State of Illinois. [33]

On Sunday April 7, 2019 he made Illinois the first state in the Midwest to adopt Tobbacco 21.[34] On Friday April 12, 2019 he signed the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act which protects the right of employers, employees, and their labor organizations to collectively bargain, ensuring that the State of Illinois complies with the National Labor Relations Act.[35] On May 17,2019 he signed legistation that helped workers exposed to toxic substances.[36]

On June 5, 2019 Governor Pritzker signed a bipartisan $40 billion balanced budget for the 2019-2020 budget year.[37] The historic budget increases funding for elementary and high schools by nearly $379 million, exceeding the $29 million increase required in a new state education funding formula approved last year. More than $150 million in additional funding is also included for higher education including nearly $53 million more for public universities, $14 million more for community colleges, and a $50 million increase in funding for grants to low-income students. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will be getting additional funding, which includes about $25 million to hire 300 new staff members, $25 million for developing “a comprehensive child welfare information system” and $30 million in “rate increases for providers.

The budget allocated $230 million to build a new Quincy Veterans Home, $21 million to open the Chicago Veterans Home, efforts to encourage U.S. Census participation will get an extra $29 million and the Illinois State Police will have two cadet classes funded. All of Illinois’ 177 members of the legislature will get cost-of-living increases to the tune of $1,600 each.[38]

Along with the 2019-2020 state budget, Governor Pritzker also signed the "Fair Tax" law on the same day which will offer a constitutional amendment to voters in the November 2020 election to replace Illinois' flat tax with graduated rates.[39]

Political positions[edit]


Pritzker supports Syrian refugees and has criticized the Trump administration and Rauner for "turning a blind eye on them".[40] He also supports enhancing funding for immigrant and refugee services, increasing health care options for undocumented adults, improving the U-Visa certification process for victims of violent crimes, and providing access to financial aid for undocumented students such as DACA recipients.[40] Pritzker has said he would sign the "Illinois Trust Act", a pro-immigration bill.[40]

On January 24, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order expanding access to welcome centers in Illinois for immigrants and refugees.[41] Welcome centers help guide immigrants on a path to citizenship and refugees with access to health care, education, jobs, and legal services.

LGBT rights[edit]

Pritzker has been a long time advocate of LGBT rights and has actively participated in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade.[42][43] As part of his 2018 gubernatorial race, Pritzker has stated that his administration will address anti-LGBT hate crimes, expand LGBT access to healthcare, and oppose anti-LGBT legislation.[44]


Pritzker is a supporter of expanding the state's medical marijuana program and legalizing recreational cannabis in Illinois.[45][46][47]

On May 31, 2019 the Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act legalizing and regulating the production, consumption, and sale of adult-use cannabis. Governor Pritzker has vowed to sign the legislation into law which would take effect on January 1, 2020.[48][49]


Pritzker is pro-choice and a vocal supporter of women's rights.[50] During the 2018 gubernatorial Democratic primaries, Planned Parenthood supported Pritzker along with Kennedy and Biss.[51]

On January 22, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order giving state employees and women covered under Illinois state health insurance expanded reproductive coverage which also includes abortions.[52] The move was praised by Planned Parenthood officials who also attended the signing event.

Net neutrality[edit]

Pritzker is a supporter of net neutrality and has stated on his gubernatorial campaign website: "As governor, I will ensure that all internet traffic is treated equally so that everyone can continue to use the internet to grow their businesses, further their education, and enjoy the freedom of expression."[53]

Environmental issues[edit]

On January 23, 2019, Governor Pritzker committed Illinois to the U.S. Climate Alliance which will aim to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions over 26% by 2025.[54]

Minimum wage increase[edit]

As a candidate for governor, Pritzker campaigned on raising the minimum wage in Illinois to $15 an hour.[55]

On February 19, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed into law a statewide 2025 $15 minimum wage law making Illinois the fifth state in the nation and first state in the Midwest to pass the legislation.[56][57]


As president of the Pritzker Family Foundation, he funds research and programs focused on children in poverty. Under the leadership of Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, he supported the creation of the Pritzker Consortium on Early Childhood Development at the University of Chicago.[58][59] Along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Irving Harris Foundation, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation is a founding supporter of the First Five Years Fund, an organization focusing nationwide attention and resources on comprehensive, quality early care and learning programs for children from birth to age five.[60] In 2013, Pritzker teamed with Goldman Sachs to fund the first ever social impact bond for early childhood education.[61]

As chairman of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which opened in 2009, Pritzker successfully led the capital campaign and planning to build an international institution in the Midwest dedicated to teaching the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides.[62] Pritzker is the principal funder of Cambodia Tribunal Monitor, the most significant online source for news and commentaries regarding the international criminal tribunal created to bring to justice the perpetrators of Pol Pot era acts of genocide. He served as chairman of the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and was succeeded by former White House counsel and Federal Judge Abner J. Mikva.[63] In 2013, Pritzker received the Survivors' Legacy Award for his leadership in the creation of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.[64]

In 2007, Pritzker and his wife donated $5 million to the University of South Dakota to build the Theodore R. and Karen K. Muenster University Center in honor of his wife's parents.[65] In 2011, Milton Academy dedicated the Pritzker Science Center for which Pritzker provided the lead gift. Pritzker is a trustee and serves on the investment committee of Northwestern University and is a member of the Board of Governors of Northwestern University School of Law. He is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the Commercial Club of Chicago.

On October 22, 2015, Northwestern University School of Law announced that J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M. K. Pritzker, had made a $100 million gift to the law school in honor of Pritzker's great-grandfather, Nicholas J. Pritzker. The 156-year-old school became named the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.[66]

He received the Spirit of Erikson Institute Award for his creation of the Children's Initiative.[67]

The Better Government Association, an Illinois watchdog, has criticized Pritzker's charitable giving practices, saying he funneled the funds offshore tax havens. "The result is that Pritzker's philanthropy, and any accolades that go with it, have been bankrolled with what is essentially found money. He did little to earn the proceeds and paid no taxes on the bulk of it before giving it away," the BGA article states.[68]

Personal life[edit]

In 1993, he married Mary Kathryn "M. K." Muenster of South Dakota, whom he had met in Washington, D.C., when she worked as an aide to U.S. Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota.[69] She is one of three children of Theodore and Karen Muenster. Her father unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1990.[70] They live in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago with their two children.[1][71]

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Pritzker had purposefully directed a mansion that he'd purchased next door to his multimillion-dollar home to become uninhabitable by removing the toilets from the residence. He then appealed his original property tax assessment,[72] claiming that the newly-built residential property was thus "uninhabitable"; the Cook County assessor reduced the home's value from $6.25 million to about $1.1 million, which granted Pritzker an 83% property tax reduction, equal to about $230,000 per annum.[73]


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