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The late Sue Pritzker, is featured in J.B. Pritzker's latest ad. 6

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

  1. Jackie OReilly says:

    She lost her job as what? CEO of the Hyatt hotel chain? The pritzker family is a family of billionaires, and while his mommy may have “lost her job”, it’s a little different than the single mother who works two waitress jobs to barely make the rent. Don’t be fooled by JB Pritzker, people.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. James A Cochrane says:

    I knew the family were Billionaires , although this is still a very harsh reality to lose your Father at age 7 and lose your mother at 17 for any child growing up, rich or poor.I would rather be poor and have my parents then rich and have this happen. That aside, it has nothing to do with running this State.
    Tugging at peoples heart strings to look for sympathy is not a good start. People of Chicago should heed Governor Rauners comments about the Democratic control in Chicago. This city is in financial ruins due to probably 100’s of years of Democrats and the machine that still continues to put us closer to Bankruptcy. Vote Republican, or any other worthy candidate to see if we can affect change. Need to do something. Should it surprise us to see our state is #1 in losing people every year. Bad reputation from almost being bankrupt to the police and crime and murders. I love Chicago. Have lived here 59 years but I will leave in a heart beat once I retire. Not the same city it used to be and getting worse. The only reason Rahm is making changes is the pressure that has come to bear on him now.
    They lied and withheld info on police shootings and in some cases out and out murder. We have teachers being interviewed in CPS during the strike and they cannot even complete a sentence correctly. Not bad rapping teachers as there are many great ones and a difficult job today, but there are a good percentage that should not be there. Pensions for all city, police, fire, teachers is going to continue to ruin the States Budget. No way to pull out of the downward spiral unless you get the corrupt folks out of office here. I would vote for an independent just to get the wrong Democrats out of office. It is not going to improve, take a chance on change somehow. If you keep voting for the same people Chicago is doomed to failure, financially, morally and it is too great of a city to have that happen.
    J B Pritzker is looking for your sympathy and vote. Why is he not talking about the real issues of possible bankruptcy due to all the above. Kids lunch programs is a worthy social issue but it will not bring us back from bankruptcy. He does not want to face the real issues. Rauner has and he is being mocked by the Dems in Chicago. They want to keep lining their pockets.Wake up people.

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