Pritzker’s Prize: Commerce Candidate

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Penny Pritzker, chairman and chief executive officer of PSP Capital Partners LLC, in Chicago.

Written with John McCormick

President Barack Obama is close to choosing Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker, who led fundraising for his 2008 campaign, as his next commerce secretary, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Pritzker, whose family built the Hyatt Hotels Corp. chain, would replace acting commerce secretary Rebecca Blank, an economist who took over for John Bryson after he resigned last June for health reasons, as Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols and John McCormick reported today.

Selecting Pritzker, 53, would ensure that one of Obama’s original Chicago supporters would have a voice in shaping his second term, said two of the people, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel decisions. The president hasn’t made a final decision, said a third person, who also requested anonymity.

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, declined to comment on Pritzker’s potential nomination. Pritzker’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

After facing criticism for picking men to lead the State, Treasury and Defense Departments, Obama has announced the appointment of two women for key positions. Yesterday, he selected Sally Jewell, chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc., to be secretary of the Interior Department. Last month, he named Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for Manhattan, as his choice to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Obama is also considering Wal-Mart Foundation President Sylvia Mathews Burwell for budget director and Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley, for deputy Treasury secretary. Jeffrey Zients, the acting White House budget director, is a leading candidate for U.S. trade representative during Obama’s second term, according to one of the people.

Like Jewell, Pritzker would bring a business background to the administration, helping Obama fulfill what he has said is a goal to add private sector experience in his Cabinet.

The Chicago businesswoman has developed a skyscraper in her hometown, worked as president of a commercial real estate and luxury senior housing company, and served as chairwoman for a credit-reporting company. Priztker’s net worth as of September was estimated at $1.8 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans.

See the full report on Pritzker at Bloomberg.com. 

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