Hyatt heiress nominated to head Department of Commerce

By Danny King
President Obama has nominated Hyatt Hotels heiress and Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary.

Among other duties, Pritzker was the national finance chairwoman for Obama’s first presidential campaign.

If confirmed, Pritzker will succeed John Bryson, who stepped down last June. Deputy secretary Rebecca Blank has been acting secretary since then.

Pritzker has “more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance and hospitality,” Obama said in prepared remarks Thursday morning. “She’s been an extraordinary civic leader in our shared hometown of Chicago.”

Pritzker, the CEO of Pritzker Realty Group, has law and business degrees from Stanford University. She’s the daughter of Hyatt co-founder Donald Pritzker and remains on the hotel company's board.

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, on his company’s earnings conference call Thursday morning, called Pritzker “talented” and “energetic,” and pushed for “quick confirmation by the Senate.”

“Her successful track record as an innovative business leader and entrepreneur makes her ideally suited to take charge of a department focused on issues that directly impact U.S. economic growth,” said U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow in a statement. “She brings unparalleled credentials to the U.S. Commerce Department as well as a unique and direct relationship to the travel industry.”

Forbes estimates Pritzker’s wealth at $1.85 billion, which would make her the wealthiest person in Obama’s cabinet.

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly. 
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