His Rush Street nightspot Faces was the epitome of 1970s Chicago-style excess — a Studio 54 of the Midwest, complete with light-up floors, fog and bubble machines and a seemingly never-ending stream of champagne quaffing celebs.
And in the 1990s, his River North sports bar, Mother Hubbard’s, became a favored spot for Bulls fans to watch Michael Jordan win championship after championship.
But legendary club and tavern impresario Jim Rittenberg didn’t always have to put on a great show to get paid, the feds say.
The 72-year-old fraudulently scored $3.5 million from beer giant MillerCoors for doing almost nothing at all, according to an indictment handed down Tuesday.
Between 2003 and 2013, high-ranking MillerCoors executive David Colletti steered do-nothing contracts to six favored pals including Rittenberg, the indictment alleges. In all, the haul totaled $7 million.
Though Rittenberg’s firm, Prime Promotions Inc., invoiced MillerCoors for hosting 50 marketing events, most of them purportedly held at Indian casinos, none of the events was actually held, the feds say.
Rittenberg’s only real job was to divide the loot up and kick some back to Colletti, they allege.
Colletti, Rittenberg and the other defendants spent the proceeds of the scam on treats including collectible firearms, international golf trips, hunting vacations, investments in hotels and bars and the Milwaukee Iron arena football team, the indictment alleges.
Contacted Wednesday afternoon by the Sun-Times, Rittenberg, who lives in River North, declined to comment. He has yet to enter a plea.
But he has known for more than a year that MillerCoors and the feds were looking into his dealings with Colletti.
A lawsuit previously filed by MillerCoors in Milwaukee alleges that Prime Promotions was a “shell company” that “sold no products, performed no services, had no assets or business operations” and existed only “as a front to facilitate the submission of fraudulent invoices to Miller Brewing and MillerCoors.”
It alleges the scam began as early as 1999.
Though he is best known for Faces and Mother Hubbards, Rittenberg has owned or had a stake in a number of well-loved Chicago venues over the years, including Gold Coast Dogs, Heavenly Bodies, 59 West and Rodeo.
An arraignment date has yet to be set.