Mark Walter’s million-dollar squash tourney–and other billionaire moves
March 4th, 2018
Billionaire businessman Mark Walter and his wife, Kimbra, are funding a $1 million prize and multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with the Professional Squash Association (PSA)
With the Walters’ gift, the PSA World Championships will become the first squash tournament to award a $1 million prize–which will double the 2017 and be split equally between the men’s and women’s brackets.
If that’s not big enough, Chicago will host the 2019 and 2021 PSA championship tournaments, too. They’ll be named, appropriately, the Walter Family PSA World Championships during those years.
“The women’s and men’s prizes are the same — and that has been the case since my wife and I became involved — because it reflects the value we place on gender equity, and it recognizes this incredibly talented group of athletes,” Walter said in a release about the prizes.
News about the prize money comes on the heels of a Windy City Open squash tournament held last week at the University Club. The Walters support that, too.
Under a separate agreement with the Walter family, the Windy City Open will be on hold for two years to accommodate the world championships. The open will return in 2020 with a $500,000 prize pool, making it the most lucrative PSA touring event outside of the world championships.
Walter is the founder and CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a global financial services company with some $305 billion in assets. To much of the country, though, he’s known as the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Walters are also avid fans of net sports. Along with supporting squash, they attend premier tennis events including the U.S. Open. They’ve donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the South Side XS Tennis center that teaches the game to kids from under-served communities. Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a ribbon-cutting Saturday for the center run by Kamau Murray, who also coaches Sloane Stephens.
HOME EXPANSION: Ken Griffin has acquired his first lakefront property on Ocean Boulevard–just a quarter-mile from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.
The paper reports that the Chicago hedge-fund billionaire has added about two acres to the 13.5 acres he already owns in the area. That puts him at about 17 acres in what’s known as the South Ocean Boulevard corridor. The property is located on Ocean Boulevard–also known, appropriately, as Billionaires Row.
No word on the price he paid, but the Daily News says the property has a “total market value” of $16.76 million–maybe more depending on how tax values have changed since last year.
Earlier this year, Chicago Curbed reported that Griffin paid the highest dollar amount ever for a Chicago home. The CEO of Citadel shelled out $58.75 million in November for a four-level penthouse atop the Gold Coast’s No. 9 Walton apartment tower.
HOME REDUCTION: Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has asked the Washington, D.C., court hearing his divorce case to allow the sale of the $2 million home where his estranged wife lives.
Sandi Jackson doesn’t want to sell the D.C. home–she lives there with their two teen children and mom– but Jackson Jr. says they can’t afford to keep it.
According to his attorney, Brendan Hammer, “The parties’ mortgage is several months in arrears, their combined divorce related legal fees now exceed several hundred thousand dollars, and the parties’ eldest child will be attending college in the fall–another expense for which additional funds are required.”
Along with not being able to maintain the home, Hammer said in a statement that the Jacksons can’t maintain “a standard of living in 2018 as if was 2008.”
Jackson hopes to instead maintain more “modest” residences in Washington and Chicago. The attorney said Jackson acknowledges that he and Sandi “attempted to maintain a lifestyle beyond their actual means” and that “attempts to sustain that lifestyle led to personal hubris and financial irresponsibility for which Jesse has taken responsibility and full ownership.”
A hearing on the issue will be held next month.
A NOD TO MOM: Jennifer Pritzker, one of the billionaire heirs to the Hyatt fortune, has committed $10 million to Loyola University in honor of her mom, Audrey G. Ratner–an educator and philanthropist. Both women are alums of the school, having studied there as adults.
“My mother and I graduated from Loyola as adult undergraduate students—she was a busy mom, and I was in the military,” said Pritzker, who is also CEO and president of TAWANI Enterprises. “We both respect Loyola’s mission to educate students of all backgrounds and ages. We both believe that education is the great equalizer in a democratic society and everyone should have access to a high-quality education and funding to provide them with the resources and opportunities to succeed. My mother worked tirelessly to level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students and improve outcomes for children with learning disabilities, dyslexia, and ADHD.”
Pritzker, who earned a history degree in 1979, is an investor and developer who’s passionate about restoration, preservation, and property management.
Ratner earned an education degree in 1978 and went on to teach fourth grade at the Francis Parker School and later at the Jewish Children’s bureau of Chicago. She was married to Pritzker’s late father, Robert. She later married Albert Ratner, who heads Forest City Enterprises real estate development company in Cleveland.
The Audrey G. Ratner Endowments will fund scholarships and stipends for students who are veterans or children of veterans, Loyola’s ROTC students, and students studying to be teachers. The gift will also support Loyola’s Hillel House and a fund to foster study on dyslexia and other reading disorders in Loyola’s School of Education.
NFL SHUFFLE AT THIS GALA: Big names from the NFL’s Former Players Association are on the roster to attend the March 10 gala benefiting GiGi’s Playhouse, a nonprofit that offers programs for children with Down syndrome.
“This is not your grandma’s gala. It’s a high-energy, star-studded, visually stunning evening,” Nancy Gianni, GiGi’s Playhouse founder and president, said in a release announcing the event.
Among expected attendees: Desmond Clark, Wendell Davis, Jerry Fontenot, Bruce Herron and Kurt Becker (’85 Super Bowl Champion), all formerly with the Chicago Bears.
This year’s theme is “I Have a Voice.” Tickets are $250 per person or $2,000 for a table of 10. Click here for more details.
LUVABULL CANDIDATE: I had dinner recently with Athena Farmakis, a candidate for Cook County Circuit Court judge in the 8th subcircuit. She’s the only woman among the four on the ballot–and she’s the only one who used to be a Luvabull. The dancers who perform at Bulls games will perform as part of a reunion gathering this week.
Over tiropites and avgolemono soup in Greektown, Farmakis talked about the experience–and how standing before 20,000 people at a Bulls game prepared her for a career as a Cook County state’s attorney.
PHOTOS WORTH CATCHING: Joerg Metzner is the design director at Rand McNally, but away from the office he’s a photographer. His work is on display at 1100 Florence, a corner gallery at 1100 Florence Avenue in Evanston.
I stopped by to take a look and enjoy the ambiance of the opening night crowd–so warm and inviting! Metzner’s photography ranges from ethereal to amusing, black and white to color. It’s color sometimes so vivid you think it’s water-color painting. He’ll be at the gallery today (Sunday) talking about the “Tomorrow Never Knows” exhibit. The show runs through the weekend but you can view and purchase his photography on his web site.
A GIFT FOR THE ILLINI: Stuart Levenick, the retired president of Caterpillar Inc., and his wife, Nancy, have donated $5 million toward construction of a new performance center for the University of Illinois football program.
The auditorium in the complex will be named in honor of Levenick–a legend in Illini circles for being a walk-on player who would become team captain and offensive MVP.
UPCOMING EVENT: Lumity will hold its annual dinner and STEM Fair at the Four Seasons Hotel on March 15. Keynote speaker is Megan Jensen, the first female lead engineer for the U.S. Air Force. She oversees the country’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program–and she’s only 28! Details here.