Jennifer Pritzker's real estate holdings are far more extensive than previously known.
The Chicago billionaire and member of the family that built the Hyatt Hotels chain owns nearly 35 properties for which she has paid more than $75 million, the Tribune has found.
Although the properties represent just a fraction of her estimated $1.7 billion fortune, she is among the largest individual owners of real estate in the Chicago region. And she has plowed millions more into exquisite renovations of some of those buildings, including the Monroe Building at 104 S. Michigan Ave. and Frank Lloyd Wright's Emil Bach House on Sheridan Road in Rogers Park.
"Col. Pritzker believes in renovating vintage buildings and making them ready for the current century," said Mary Parthe, Pritzker's chief investment officer, when asked to explain her boss's real estate strategy.
The farthest property from Chicago that the Tribune could identify is a lakefront vacation home in Eagle River, Wis. About half of her holdings are in Rogers Park.
Purchase prices range from a few hundred thousand dollars for a suburban condo to $31.2 million for the Monroe Building, home to her office and the Pritzker Military Library, which she founded. The Monroe Building was purchased in cash, as were most of her holdings, according to property records. The bulk of her holdings are residential, yet she owns at least one industrial/warehouse facility, in Glenview, property records show.
Pritzker declined to answer specific questions. But the retired Army lieutenant colonel shared via email that she bought her first home in 1980 in Clarksville, Tenn., while stationed at Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border. She paid $54,500 for the home, relying on a Veterans Administration loan, personal savings and her Army housing allowance. And she turned a profit, selling it three years later for $60,000.
While at Fort Campbell, she was assigned to oversee the conversion of a World War II-era PX, the Army's equivalent of a discount department or convenience store, into an indoor training facility. It was her first experience with property management and renovation.
"This included the design and construction of an indoor tracking/gunnery range for the (anti-tank, wire-guided) missile systems," Pritzker wrote. "I did all of this on Uncle Sam's budget with some modest personal supplements on my part."
She wrote that she keeps a framed copy of a 1982 newspaper story about the range near her desk.
Freelance reporter Bob Goldsborough contributed.