A successful billionaire chief executive, Pritzker is uniquely situated to serve as a key administration liaison to the business community. She has spent more than 25 years in the real-estate, hospitality, senior-living, and financial-services industries. Pritzker, 54, was the chief executive of PSP Capital Partners, and developed companies such as Vi, specializing in luxury living for older adults; the Parking Spot, a network of off-site airport parking facilities; and the Pritzker Realty Group.
"Our department stands ready to serve as an active partner to the business community as we work together to continue building a 21st-century American economy," Pritzker said last month upon being sworn in as secretary after the Senate confirmed her on a 97-1 vote. As secretary, she hopes to protect, promote, and anticipate the practices and policies that will make America competitive and innovative. Working together with businesses, universities, communities, and workers, she says, she wants to improve the standard of living for all Americans.
Pritzker, a close friend of President Obama's, rose to prominence as the national finance chairwoman for Obama's 2008 campaign, where she helped raise a record $750 million. She previously served on the President's Council for Jobs and Competitiveness and the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
A Chicago real-estate and hotel scion, Pritzker is a member of the family that founded the Hyatt Hotel empire. She has sat on a number of boards, including Hyatt and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. She was also executive chairman of TransUnion, a global financial-services information company. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, appointed Pritzker to the Chicago Board of Education.
Pritzker earned a bachelor's in economics from Harvard and a law degree and M.B.A. from Stanford. She is married with two children.
As secretary, Pritzker will lead a department of nearly 50,000 people responsible for creating jobs and economic growth. "Penny is a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur, and one of the most accomplished and highly respected women in business today," Obama said when she was sworn in on June 26. "She knows what it takes to build companies from the ground up, and she shares my belief in doing everything we can to help businesses and workers succeed and make America a magnet for good jobs."