A sibling rivalry with deep industry connections and a presidential twist!Terry W. ClemansPenny Pritzker and Robert Jay "J. B." Pritzker
With the Republican Presidential Primary over, John McCain
watches his Democrat counterparts, as they seem destined to battle
all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver in
August, each vying for the opportunity to challenge McCain in
November, and two siblings from one of America's wealthiest
families are busy raising cash to keep that contest going. An often
overlooked twist in this political battle is that the siblings,
Penny Pritzker and Robert Jay "J. B." Pritzker, are on opposing
sides of the quest for the Democratic nomination for president and
have strong ties to the mortgage industry.
Penny Pritzker is the national finance chairwoman for Sen.
Barack Obama, while her brother, J.B. Pritzker, is the national
chairman of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Citizens for Hillary, a
campaign initiative for grassroots fundraising and outreach.
Regardless of the outcome of the primary, if a Democrat wins the
White House, there will no doubt be a contingent of Pritzker family
members at the inauguration party for their major contributions to
the campaign's success.
Since both senators in the race have roots in the Chicago area,
the Pritzkers' home town, a competition over obtaining support from
members of this prominent Chicago family was bound to happen. The
Pritzkers are not just Chicago's wealthiest family, but also one of
Chicago's most historically philanthropic, with many members of the
family active in supporting political campaigns at various levels
and on both sides of the political "isle." With the two siblings on
opposite sides of this historic battle, both entrusted with the key
role of raising vital cash needed for the election, one can only
imagine the tough decisions faced by other family members, friends
and associates as each campaign made its trips through Chicago
prior to the Illinois primary. For those who may not remember,
Penny's candidate, Obama, was the victor in the Illinois
The Pritzker siblings are involved in many business interests
and touch almost every single mortgage application in America. The
family wealth originally began as heirs to the Hyatt hotel empire. They have been
liquidating the family's holdings in a plan to distribute the
wealth among the 11 heirs, of which a major segment of that
diversification happened on Christmas Day in 2007 when it was
announced that they would sell 60 percent of their 125 companies
within The Marmon Group to Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
for $4.5 billion. The connection to the mortgage industry is in the
form of their ownership of the only non-publicly traded of the
three national credit reporting companies, TransUnion. Due to the three
bureau merge credit reporting standard at the government-sponsored
enterprises and U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development, Penny Pritzker, currently
chairwoman of the board of TransUnion, plays a role in the decision
to lend and at what interest rate for almost every mortgage
transaction in America.
Prior to her role with TransUnion, she served as chairwoman of
Superior Bank of Chicago for five years. The institution failed in
2001, with more than $1 billion in insured and uninsured deposits
due to its promotion of sub-prime home and auto loans. Considering
the state of today's current mortgage marketplace, with the origins
of many of the problems in the same type of sub-prime loans that
caused Superior to fail, one must wonder why the regulators did not
learn a lesson from those problems in 2001. Superior Bank was
founded from another government bailout program, a failed savings
and loan by the name of Lyons Savings Bank, which was bailed out by
the federal government and sold to the Pritzker family in 1988 in
the waning days of the savings and loan program era.
J.B. Pritzker is the managing partner of a private equity firm
that bears his name. He has long been active in the democratic
political process and ran for Congress in 1998.
While this family has a long history of very compelling
business, political and philanthropic tales, this most recent
political chapter in the storied family history is sure to make for
some very energetic holiday dining table conversation.
Terry W. Clemans is the executive director of the National Credit Reporting Association
Inc. (NCRA). He may be reached at (630) 539-1525 or e-mail [email protected]