Penny Pritzker nominated for US commerce secretary


Penny Pritzker, billionaire heiress to Hyatt Hotels, was nominated by President Obama for Commerce secretary in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden Thursday morning.


Saul Loeb

Penny Pritzker, billionaire heiress to Hyatt Hotels, was nominated by President Obama as commerce secretary.

Pritzker, 54, is a longtime Democratic supporter and fundraiser who, with a fortune of $1.85 billion, is among the 300 richest Americans.

Her nomination was not seen as a surprise and could anger unions, with which Pritzker has had a rocky relationship.

Hyatt and their hospitality workers have been in a protracted battle over contracts and some unions have called for a global boycott of the hotels.

Pritzker may also run into trouble with Congress over the collapse of Superior Bank, which her family owned.

Though she has divested many of her businesses, the Chicago Tribune said that at one time she was involved in running the hotel chain, a credit reporting agency, an industrial company, a bank and residential developments.

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She now runs PSP Capital Partners, an investment firm.

"Penny is one of our country's most distinguished business leaders," the president told reporters during a press conference in the Rose Garden to announce nominees.

"She's got more than 25 years of management experience in industries, including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She's built companies from the ground up."

Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair and co-chair of his re-election campaign, if approved by Congress, would use her role to placate business leaders who have been critical of the president.

The Chicago Tribune even went so far as to say she has become "a conduit for business executives to voice their frustrations with the President."

"She has all the attributes — she knows business, she's close to the president, she has strong relationships," Bill Daley, the former White House chief of staff to Obama and Bill Clinton's commerce secretary, told POLITICO.