Opinion: J.B. Pritzker and Penny Pritzker end their Clinton-Obama rift


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A primary campaign, of course, is not a civil war.

But the Hillary Rodham Clinton-Barack Obama battle did divide brother against sister.

J.B. Pritzker backed Clinton. His sister, Penny S. Pritzker, backed Obama. But this was not just any brother-sister rivalry. This was a public split between two of Chicago’s most prominent business people. Now that Clinton has lost, the political rift between the heirs to the Hyatt hotel fortune is closing.

Penny is a billionaire businesswoman-philanthropist, No. 135 on Forbes’ 2007 of the richest Americans. She is national finance committee chair for Obama’s campaign and helped oversee a fund-raising operation that has raised $390 million for the soon-to-be Democratic nominee.


J.B., also known as Jay Robert, is No. 149 on the Forbes list and was a national co-chair for Clinton’s campaign. He figures he raised more than $1 million for the New York senator. Now, in the spirit of Democratic unity, he is calling Clinton backers in Chicago -- and there were more than a few -- to a fund-raiser in Chicago for Obama.

“I’m going to stand with the Democratic nominee and help in any way I can,” he said from the Denver convention, where he is a Clinton delegate. He is not sure of the exact location or date, except that it will be in September. Nor is he certain that Obama will attend. But he said his sister will be there and so will Clinton.

It wasn’t easy being for Clinton in Chicago. Illinois was Obama’s turf. He won the primary with 65% of the vote and raised millions. There were times that Clinton backers viewed themselves as being in the bunker.

Few would speak publicly about their support for Clinton and skepticism about Obama, concerned that they would be shunned. Some said in private that they worried their businesses might suffer. But Clinton was not without her support. She raised almost $6 million in Illinois, the state where she was born.

In the interview today, J.B. Pritzker quoted...

...the Shakespeare line from Henry V: “We few; we happy few, we band of brothers.”

“I would say brothers and sisters. It wasn’t lonely, but we were outnumbered,” said the brother, head of the Pritzker Group, a private equity firm.

Clinton’s defeat was particularly difficult for him as it was for many other Democrats. But now that the campaign is over, he sees no alternative: “On Wednesday, I’m going to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, I’m going to work my heart out for Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee.”


-- Dan Morain

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Above: Penny Pritzker, president of the Pritzker Realty Group LP, poses for a portrait at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Aug. 3, 2008. Pritzker, Barack Obama’s campaign finance chairwoman, has helped the presidential candidate set fundraising records. Photographer: Bill Cramer/Bloomberg Markets via Bloomberg News