By Sara Burnett
CHICAGO — A billionaire businessman’s announcement that he’s running for Illinois governor in 2018 means there will be at least three candidates in the race who have enormous personal wealth.
Democrat J.B. Pritzker on Thursday jumped into the contest to try to unseat Illinois’ wealthy Republican businessman-turned-governor, Bruce Rauner. Chris Kennedy, nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, already said he’s seeking the Democratic nomination.
The ability of all three men to self-fund a campaign likely means the contest will see record-shattering spending. It also has drawn criticism from other Democratic candidates including state Sen. Daniel Biss and Chicago Aldermen Ameya Pawar, more average earners who say the party shouldn’t be controlled by the very rich.
Here’s a look at Illinois’ deep-pocketed field, how each man got his money and just how rich they are:
J.B. Pritzker, Democrat
Pritzker inherited substantial money through his family’s ownership of the Hyatt hotel chain and other businesses. He has done well for himself as an investor — including in companies such as Facebook — and as founder of Pritzker Group, a venture capital firm that invests heavily in technology companies. Forbes recently estimated his net worth at $3.4 billion, placing him at number 207 on its 2017 list of billionaires in the U.S. and making him the third-wealthiest person in Illinois.
Bruce Rauner, Republican
Rauner is fond of talking about how he earned, rather than inherited, his fortune. Most of his money came from his career as a private equity investor (he was the “R” in the Chicago firm GTCR LLC), where he said he helped turn around troubled companies to make them profitable. While he has never explicitly disclosed his net worth, he has said he’s a multimillionaire with assets close to $1 billion. According to tax returns he released, Rauner’s adjusted gross income was $187.6 million in 2015, most of that from investments.
Chris Kennedy, Democrat
Kennedy is a member of political dynasty that has a family fortune Forbes estimated was worth about $1.2 billion as of 2015. That money is shared by about 30 family members and, according to Forbes, the person with the most money — about $175 million — was Kennedy’s cousin, Caroline Kennedy. Chris Kennedy oversees the family’s real estate holdings, which once included Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, in addition to running a nonprofit organization. He also is developing Wolf Point, a massive real estate project on prime property downtown Chicago. His campaign declined to comment on Kennedy’s net worth.