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Kapos: A rich list of the state’s wealthiest people

Ken Griffin, Sam Zell and J.B. Pritzker

Ken Griffin, Sam Zell and J.B. Pritzker are the three wealthiest Illinoisans, Forbes says.

Ken Griffin has again been ranked the state’s wealthiest resident. He’s even richer than he was last year. Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel investment firm, saw his fortune grow by a half-billion dollars to $8 billion, according to Forbes’ list of the wealthiest people on the planet.

Chicago businessmen Sam Zell and J.B. Pritzker, who rank second and third among Illinois billionaires, saw their wealth rise too.

The magazine says it was a record year for billionaires. The number of them jumped to 2,043 from 1,810 the previous year. It’s the first time Forbes found more than 2,000 10-figure fortunes. Their total net worth rose by 18 percent to $7.67 trillion, also a record, says Forbes.

Most of Chicago’s billionaires saw an uptick in dollar signs, though real estate and casino magnate Neil Bluhm saw his wealth decline a bit — from $3.4 billion on the 2016 list to $3.2 billion.

Griffin, who ranks 166th among billionaires worldwide, has made headlines this past year for sharing that wealth. He pledged $12 million to repair Chicago’s lakefront trail and gave $5 million to the Field Museum.

Pritzker, the Chicago entrepreneur and philanthropist who’s considering a run for governor, saw his fortune rise to $3.4 billion, up from $3.2 billion the previous year. His wealth could transform the race for governor, should he jump in.

Pritzker is joined on the list by numerous family members, including his siblings former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker ($2.5 billion) and business partner Tony Pritzker ($3.4 billion). Their wealth came, in part, from their family’s ownership in Hyatt hotels. Other billionaires in the family include Hyatt Corp. President Tom Pritzker, film producer Gigi Pritzker, hotelier John Pritzker, real estate developer Jennifer Pritzker and businessman Nicholas Pritzker II.

Bill Gates is No. 1 overall — again — with a $86 billion net worth. Warren Buffett is second with $75.6 billion. Forbes says Jeff Bezos had the best year of anyone as his net worth rose $27.6 billion to $72.8 billion. And President Donald Trump is 544th with $3.5 billion.

Chicago-area billionaires:

166th, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, $8 billion

294th, filmmaker George Lucas, $5.3 billion

324th, real estate magnate Sam Zell, $5 billion

564th, investor J.B. Pritzker, $3.4 billion

603rd, real estate magnate Neil Bluhm, $3.2 billion

603rd , Hyatt executive chairman Tom Pritzker, $3.2 billion

814th, Ryan Specialty Group founder Pat Ryan, $2.5 billion

814th, Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter, $2.5 billion

939th, Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, $2.2 billion

1098th, Tempus CEO Eric Lefkofsky, $1.9 billion

1468th, Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, $1.4 billion

Others include Beanie Babies maker Ty Inc. founder Ty Warner; Koch Foods CEO Joseph Grendys; filmmaker George Lucas; and Computer Discount Warehouse founder Michael Krasny.

There are plenty of other billionaires who don’t live in Illinois but have business stakes here. Those folks include Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina; Urbana, Ill.-based Flex-N-Gate owner Shahid Khan; Reyes Holdings owners (and brothers) Chris Reyes and Jude Reyes; TV powerhouse Oprah Winfrey; chewing gum magnate and former Wrigley Co. CEO Bill Wrigley Jr.; Sears Holdings CEO Edward Lampert; and former Bulls star Michael Jordan.

The patriarch of the Chicago Cubs is also on the Forbes list. Nebraska resident and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has a $1.8 billion net worth.

Speaking of billionaires

Jennifer Pritzker

Jennifer Pritzker

The city of Evanston doesn’t have Jennifer Pritzker to kick around anymore.

The heir to the Hyatt hotels fortune packed up and left town about seven months ago to live farther up the North Shore.

For years Pritzker had made Evanston her home. She bought up a few old mansions and restored them to their original glory. She lived in one and turned two into elegant bed and breakfasts.

She was working to do more restorations but butted heads over the years with Evanston leaders.

Her proposal to convert the Harley Clarke Mansion into a boutique hotel was rejected.

Pritzker says she had hoped the city would consider each restoration project on a “case-by-case basis” instead of blanket zoning rules.

I ran into her at the Landmarks Illinois gala last week. She didn’t want to discuss where she now resides. But that sprawling mansion she bought in Winnetka a few years ago looks like a nice place to relax.

Speaking of Landmarks

Fred Eychaner

Fred Eychaner | Diane Alexander White Photography

Democratic mega-donor Fred Eychaner, who seldom speaks publicly but whose voice is powerful in progressive politics, took to the microphone at the same Landmarks Illinois fundraiser.

His message: “Keep fighting. Never give up.”

The words were directed to Chicago preservationists, but given Eychaner’s support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he might have been giving a nod to left-leaning friends too.

The Chicago businessman was the night’s honoree.

The Kennedy-Pritzker two-step

A crowded reception at Hubbard Inn required some careful maneuvering the other day.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy and possible candidate J.B. Pritzker attended the March 16 reception. Each made time to talk to guests, though I hear they otherwise “artfully dodged” each other.

The event was hosted by the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association and honored Democratic political fundraisers Kevin Conlon and Clem Balanoff.

Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers and state Sen. Daniel Biss attended too. Summers is considering a run for governor, and Biss just threw his hat in the ring.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.