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The late Sue Pritzker, is featured in J.B. Pritzker's latest ad. 4

J.B. Pritzker opens up about his late mom

October 5th, 2017

J.B. Pritzker’s bio is widely-known. Billionaire. Hyatt Hotels heir. Entrepreneur. Venture capitalist. Philanthropist. Candidate for governor.

The story of his youth, though, is seldom shared.

In his latest political ad, Pritzker opens up about how his mother, Sue Pritzker, coped with the death of Pritzker’s father and how it shaped his own life. Pritzker was 7 when Donald Pritzker died of a sudden heart attack.

“My mother was left with three young children. She lost her job as my father’s partner in business. She lost her life partner. And she was afflicted with alcoholism. She struggled valiantly to overcome the disease so she could care for her own kids,” Pritzker says in the ad, referring to  siblings and business leaders Tony Pritzker and Penny Sue Pritzker.

“Even though she lost the battle, she ultimately won. Because although she passed away, all three of us survived,” Pritzker continues. His mom died in a car crash when Pritzker was 17.

The ad is compelling in part because Pritzker so seldom talks about his parents. It also reveals rarely seen photos of his and Penny and Tony’s mom.

Related: Pritzker launches TV ads for primary

Before the new ad hit the airwaves, Pritzker talked to me about how it came about. It wasn’t something he planned to include in his campaign to unseat Gov. Bruce Rauner. “Someone turned a camera on me and asked me some questions,” he said in an interview this week. After wrapping up the Q&A, Pritzker told staffers that that portion of the video “wasn’t usable in any way.”

But the campaign staff saw a human side of a man who has the world by the tail. They convinced him to share it. The ad explains what Pritzker’s friends see–a man empathetic to issues that cross wealth and class.

His mother’s depression and alcoholism shaped who he is today, Pritzker told me.

“She struggled mightily,” he said, recalling her trips to treatment facilities and Alcohol Anonymous meetings. “She tried very hard to make sure we kids knew that she loved us. She made sure we knew that she had a disease and that things she did were under the influence of that disease. In retrospect, I view her as a hero. Her courage is an important marker for me.”

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4 Responses to J.B. Pritzker opens up about his late mom

  1. Julie Donalek says:

    I attended last Sunday’s forum. As someone who has been an RN for more than 50 years I noticed something others might not have, i.e. how short of breath Pritzker was. His father died very young of a heart attack. He has a lovely wife & children. He doesn’t need to run for governor. He needs to save his own life.

  2. Trudy says:

    When j b pritzker gives his speech
    It makes people think he was down
    And out with his father deceased and
    Mother an alcoholic barely making
    It and now I find out his family made
    Billions!! It made me mad reading it

  3. Janet Priesz says:

    What really rubs me the wrong way about this ad is the use of the word “survived”. While loss of parents at a young age is very sad, I do not think that the “survival” of these heirs to a multi-million dollar fortune was ever really an issue. They had the support of extended family as well as an army of trustees and attorneys to protect their physical and financial well-being. Characterizing Pritzker’s situation as a struggle for “survival” denigrates the life of children like Semaj Crosby and others whose lives truly are at risk from parents afflicted with substance abuse problems.

  4. Renee says:

    I found the commercials inspiring.
    As the a member of the working poor, I thought I did all the right things: finished college, supported my son alone volunteer at my Church and try to help others who even have less than myself. I never thought that my life would be such a struggle . I hope and pray that I can get the means to repair my roof and trade in my 2004 car ( that I can not afford to put any more money for repair). Seriously praying each day to make it to work safely. Wanting to overcome my situation and help others who are also struggling.

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