Governor’s office will be first elected post for Democrat J.B. Pritzker, just like Bruce Rauner

With Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker’s victory Tuesday night, Illinois voters have traded one wealthy businessman with no previous governmental experience for another. When Pritzker is inaugurated Jan. 14, he’ll take over from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a massive state government beset by billions of dollars in unpaid bills despite last summer’s income tax hike.

The jubilation of the Election Day victory will make way for Pritzker’s transition, when he’ll pick people for leadership posts in his administration and start preparing to deliver his first budget plans in the spring, a mere few months from now.

In a speech jammed with references to such Illinois treasures as the World’s Biggest Ketchup Bottle and Superman’s home of Metropolis at the state’s southern tip, Pritzker nodded to the hurdles his administration will have to clear.

“Who we are is how we overcome our biggest challenges,” he said. “We work to mend broken places. We light the journey from hill to hilltop. And recognize that there is grace and courage and pride in the struggle to rise. And, ladies and gentlemen, rise we will.”

Rather than practice law, he launched himself into private equity investment. Five years later, at age 32, he ran for the North Shore congressional seat U.S. Rep. Sid Yates was giving up after nearly a half-century. Seeking a seat in a liberal district, he campaigned to ban the sale of handguns and proposed 24-hour day care for working parents.

He finished third with 20 percent of the vote in a 1998 primary won by Jan Schakowsky, who still holds the seat. Pritzker got campaign help from workers allied with former 33rd Ward Ald. Richard Mell, the father-in-law of future Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Two years earlier, Pritzker had helped Blagojevich win his congressional seat.

The family name is synonymous with philanthropy, and J.B. and M.K. Pritzker have focused on early childhood health and education initiatives through their family foundation.

On the business side, Pritzker joined with older brother Tony to form the Pritzker Group, an investment and venture capital firm. In 2012 the candidate founded the 1871 high-tech startup.

Much about his personal finances, though, remains a secret.

Pritzker, who Forbes estimates is worth $3.5 billion, has declined to reveal how many domestic and offshore family trusts he benefits from. He won’t identify the trusts by name or where they’re located. And he declined to say how much money he receives from them.

The Tribune has found that Pritzker’s offshore investments are more extensive than previously known, with money parked in at least 12 investment funds in the Cayman Islands. Those investments are in addition to his offshore shell companies revealed in a March Tribune report.

Twitter @MikeRiopell


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November 7, 2018 at 05:09AM

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