As heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, billionaire J.B. Pritzker is currently the wealthiest officeholder in America. Pritzker, who has an estimated net worth of $3.6 billion, handily defeated incumbent Bruce Rauner in 2018 to become the 43rd governor of Illinois. Before being elected governor he had not held elected office, but he played an important role in Chicago's business world. In 1996, he founded Pritzker Group Venture Capital, which is the largest technology venture investor based in the Midwest and currently manages over $7 billion in assets. As a recognized entrepreneurial leader, he has won numerous business awards, including EY’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year Award and ACG’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

While he had never held office, he did have some political experience dating back to early adulthood, when he campaigned for Senator Ted Kennedy. He has also held numerous positions that support the Democratic party. Among many roles, he served as National Co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention on two separate occasions.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

Although raised in California, he travelled across the country to enroll at Duke University in 1983. From an early age his passion was politics, which led him to major in political science. As a student, he benefited from some "real world lessons" when he participated in former Duke University President Terry Sanford’s successful 1986 Senate campaign. Among his extracurricular activities, he worked in Sanford’s D.C. office. The experience was instructive, as he would later call Sanford a followable "model" – i.e., a Democrat who fought for desegregation and increased education funding. In 1987, he graduated from Duke with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

Since graduating, his connection with his alma mater has continued to grow. In 2017, he was elected to the Duke University Board of Trustees – the governing body responsible for the university’s long term health. In this capacity, he has lent his professional expertise to the Duke community by serving on the Resources Committee and the Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Task Force.