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Gov. Bruce Rauner denies he made request to keep legal battle secret

Bruce Rauner

Gov. Bruce Rauner | AP file photo

Despite lawyers asserting in court that Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to keep a lawsuit filed by a former business partner sealed, the governor on Friday denied that he’s fighting to keep the information under wraps.

The suit against Rauner — who ran a private equity firm before becoming governor — was filed Oct. 5. by Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick III and the Kirkpatrick Capital Partners Fund, according to Cook County Circuit Court records.

Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick III

Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick III | From You Tube

Speaking to reporters at the Illinois Association of Hispanic State Employees conference Friday morning, the governor was asked why he’s fighting to keep the case sealed.

“I’m not,” Rauner said. “To be clear, all my investments are in a trust that I don’t control. I did that when I became governor. I can’t comment on any business disputes. That gets settled in its own process.”

BACKGROUND:

Ex-business partner says Rauner wants lawsuit kept quiet

Rauner fights to keep lawsuit sealed as he seeks to have it dismissed

When asked whether the dispute involved any investments in his “blind trust,” Rauner said he didn’t know.

“I can’t even tell you,” Rauner said. “I don’t really have much to do with that.”

During a status hearing on Thursday at the Daley Center, Kirkpatrick’s attorney Bill O’Neil told Cook County Judge David Atkins that Rauner is seeking to keep the case under wraps but O’Neil wants the case made public.

Kirkpatrick — who ran for state treasurer as a Democrat in 2009 — is a former Northwestern University basketball star and co-CEO of the Vistria Group, a private-equity firm in Chicago. He said the lawsuit was filed as a “result of a dispute with a former partner” — namely Rauner, according to a memo that Kirkpatrick sent to Vistria employees.

The complaint against Rauner and three exhibits filed in the matter all remain under seal at the Daley Center.

In the memo, Kirkpatrick also told his employees all documents in the case were hidden from public view because that’s how Rauner wants it.

Kirkpatrick told his employees that the legal fight with Rauner stemmed from an unspecified “prior endeavor” before he helped form the Vistria Group, and that the Vistria Group “is in no way associated with this litigation.”

Rauner disclosed a “partnership interest” in Kirkpatrick Partners Capital Fund I LP in the statement of financial interests for 2016 that he filed with the Illinois secretary of state in April.

This business venture was formed in June 2011 in Delaware, public records show.

Before taking office, Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner granted Roundtable Investment Partners exclusive power of attorney, giving the company control of every investment. The governor’s office then said all communications would be directed to an adviser and not to the Rauners. All gains from investments that have Illinois state contracts would be donated to charity.

Rauner in 2012 stepped down from his role as chairman of Chicago based private equity firm GTCR, of which he was an early partner, then created R8 Capital Partners, which invested in smaller Illinois companies. Rauner said he quit GTCR because it invested on behalf of state and local pension funds and he wanted to focus on civic efforts.