Penny Pritzker confirmed as 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 was confirmed as US Secretary of Commerce Tuesday in a 97-to-1 Senate vote.

Pritzker, heiress to the Hyatt hotel empire, is estimated to be worth $1.85 billion and is among the 300 richest Americans.

"Penny is one of our country's most distinguished business leaders," President Barack Obama told reporters during a press conference in the Rose Garden after her nomination. "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."

She was a democratic fundraiser and co-chair of Obama's re-election campaign. Her nomination was seen as an olive branch to US business leaders who have been critical of the president's policies.

The Chicago Tribune said that she had become "a conduit for business executives to voice their frustrations with the president."

The only vote opposed was Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

Pritzker is the fourth woman in Obama's current cabinet, and the wealthiest member.

She will be charged with leading difficult trade negotiations between the European Union and Pacific Rim countries.

Before her appointment, she was on the board of Hyatt hotels as well as the head of PSP Capital Partners, an investment firm.

Doubts about Pritzker's appointment centered around a massive labor dispute Hyatt hotels has with its unions. Offshore accounts are another concern, given her enormous wealth.

She had initially understated her income by $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination.