Karen Pritzker

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Karen Pritzker
Born1958 (age 59–60)
ResidenceBranford, Connecticut
NationalityUnited States
EducationB.A. Northwestern University
OccupationInvestor, Philanthropist
Net worthIncrease US$ 4.3 billion (March 2015)[1]
Spouse(s)Michael Vlock
Parent(s)Robert Pritzker
Audrey Gilbert

Karen L. Pritzker (born 1958) is an American billionaire, investor, and philanthropist. She is a member of the Pritzker family, the granddaughter of A.N. Pritzker and daughter of Robert Pritzker.


Pritzker was born to a Jewish family in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Audrey (née Gilbert) and Robert Pritzker.[2] She has two siblings: Jennifer N. Pritzker (b. James, 1950),[3] a retired Lt Colonel in the U.S. Army and founder of the Pritzker Military Library,[4] and Linda Pritzker (b. 1953). Her parents divorced in 1979.[2] In 1981, her mother remarried Albert B. Ratner, the co-chairman of Cleveland-based real estate developer Forest City Enterprises.[5][6] In 1980, her father remarried to Irene Dryburgh with whom he had two children: Matthew Pritzker and Liesel Pritzker Simmons.[2]

Her father diversified the Chicago-based family business, the Marmon Group - along with his brothers Jay Pritzker and Donald Pritzker - building it into a portfolio of over 60 diversified industrial corporations. They also created the Hyatt Hotel chain in 1957 and owned Braniff Airlines from 1983–1988.[1] The family has been divesting its assets: in 2006, the family sold Conwood, a smokeless tobacco company, for $3.5 billion to cigarette company Reynolds American Inc;[7] in 2007, the family sold control of the Marmon Group to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway for $4.5 billion;[1] and in 2010, the family sold its majority stake in Transunion, the Chicago-based credit reporting company, for an undisclosed amount to Chicago-based private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners.[7]

Pritzker graduated with a B.A. from Northwestern University.[1] Pritzker worked as an editor at Working Mother before the family sold it in 1986[2] and has written for various publications including SUCCESS (magazine), Seventeen (magazine), Kirkus Reviews and Newsday.[8] Pritzker invests her wealth through an investment portfolio, the Pritzker/Vlock family office using a buy-and-hold approach: their largest holdings are the family business, Hyatt, and Apple, Inc. Pritzker also operates a venture fund, LaunchCapital LLC[1][9] with a core focus in the technology, consumer and medical businesses.[10]


Pritzker and her husband donated $20 million to the Yale University School of Medicine.[1] (including $3 million to endow a professorship);[1][11] $5 million to Teach for America; $1.5 million to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, in honor of her father who had Parkinson's disease.[12] In 2007, Pritzker donated $1 million to build a new visitor center at the Treblinka concentration camp.[13] Karen also funded a new website named Truth in Advertising (TinA), tina.org, that provides information about incidents of false advertising.[14]

Pritzker produced the documentary The Big Picture which profiled her daughter, Allison Schwartz, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 23.[8][15]

The My Hero Project[edit]

Pritzker co-founded The My Hero Project[16] with Rita Stern Milch in 1995.[17] The purpose of the effort is to offset the lack of positive role models in the media and "celebrate the best of humanity and empowers young people to realize their own potential to effect positive change in the world".[17]

Personal life[edit]

She was married to Michael Vlock; they had four children:[1] Allison Schwartz, Dana Schwartz, Julia Vlock and Theodore Vlock. Her husband died in September 2017.[18] They live in Branford, Connecticut[1] and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.[19] Her husband had previously started the first television station in the country aimed solely at a Jewish audience.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Karen Pritzker January 2015
  2. ^ a b c d CNN Money: "THE PRITZKERS UNVEILING A PRIVATE FAMILY" By Ford S. Worthy April 25, 1988
  3. ^ Geidner, Chris (August 23, 2013). "Billionaire Backer Of Open Transgender Military Service Comes Out As Transgender". BuzzFeed. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  4. ^ Pritzker Military Library website: "Colonel (IL) J. N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired)" retrieved December 21, 2012
  5. ^ Yale University: "Slow readers, creative thinkers: gift will spur dyslexia studies - New center will explore links between reading problems, creativity" retrieved December 21, 2012
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: "Biography of the Ratner Family" retrieved December 21, 2012
  7. ^ a b Chicago Tribune: "Pritzker family could soon own less than half of Hyatt" By Julie Wernau April 19, 2011
  8. ^ a b The Big Picture documentary website: The Team - Karen Pritzker, Executive Producer retrieved July 24, 2013
  9. ^ Launch Capital website: "About US" retrieved July 24, 2013
  10. ^ Launch Capital website: Our Philosophy retrieved July 24, 2013
  11. ^ Medicine@Yale Bulletin: "Giving back - Top-notch surgery at Yale inspires a major gift to the School of Medicine"
  12. ^ Branford Seven News: "Branford's Pritzker Makes Forbes List of Richest Americans" March 7, 2013
  13. ^ Jewish Weekly: "Foundation pledges money to Treblinka" November 30, 2007.
  14. ^ Connecticut news: "A New Connecticut-Based Website Works to Uncover False Advertising" By Gregory B. Hladky April 3, 2013
  15. ^ The Big Picture website: "Characters - Allison Schwartz" retrieved July 24, 2013
  16. ^ Melissa Harris; Julie Wernau (December 18, 2011). "The Pritzker Family Tree". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Api Podder (November 18, 2016). "Goody Awards to honor The MY HERO Project Director Jeanne Meyers Saturday". My Social Good News. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  18. ^ "Michael Vlock". New Haven Independent. October 1, 2017.
  19. ^ Berg Properties: "Hyatt Hotel heiress Karen Pritzker buys duplex Penhouse in Manhattan February 28, 2007
  20. ^ New York Times: "Group Plans TV Station For Jewish Audience" September 06, 1988