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Family Capital’s Investor of the Year: The Pritzker Group

Pritzker Power - Left, JB Pritzker   Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images  Right: Tony Pritzker  Photo: Alberto Rodriguez/Getty Images
Pritzker Power – Left, JB Pritzker   Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images  Right: Tony Pritzker  Photo: Alberto Rodriguez/Getty Images

Welcome to Family Capital’s Investor of the Year Award. Every year, Family Capital looks closely at the entrepreneurs and family investors doing interesting deals, particularly the ones that stand out and are likely to make a difference to the global economy.

This year, Family Capital’s Investor of the Year goes to the Pritzker Group and its two principals – brothers Tony and JB Pritzker. The group has become one of the most interesting family-led investment groups anywhere – and this year was a particularly busy one for the Pritzker Group. It has arguably become the biggest family-backed venture capital group in the world, with deals done by the group’s venture capital arm amounting to an impressive 26 in the calendar year from the beginning of December 2015, according to CrunchBase. And they were worth close to $300 million.

The 26 deals are on top of the 112 previous VC investments the group has made since it was founded ten years ago. Only Vulcan Capital, the family investment group of Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, comes close to Pritzker in family-linked VC investing. Vulcan did 10 deals worth $105.9 million in the calendar year from the beginning of December.

The private capital part of the Pritzker Group, which targets middle-market businesses, many of them with a family-business background, was also busy this year. It acquired packaging group ProAmpac, and seven of Pritzker’s other investments made add-on acquisitions in the same year.

At the heart of the group is a commitment to the long term – in the classic family business fashion. As JB Pritzker says about the group’s investment strategy: “We partner with entrepreneur-built and family-owned companies that share our passion for building market-leading businesses. Our management teams are encouraged to make strategic acquisitions to maximise long-term value for our companies. Pritzker Group’s capital is not time-bounded and that’s a major competitive advantage for our companies.”

Notable family-led investment trends

This year, family to family investing has gathered pace, and notable deals included: luxury group LVMH, owned by the Arnault family, buying the German premium luggage manufacturer and family owned Rimowa for €640 million last October; family-owned drinks group Davide Campari-Milano buying family-owned drinks group Grand Marnier in March; and the family-owned Rolling Stone magazine bringing in an outside investor from a well-known Singaporean business family in September.

Another notable trend this year has been the growing role of the principle-based family office. And as Family Capital started with the Pritzker family, it is interesting that one of the main role models for the principle-based family office is a group called the Blue Haven Initiative, with Pritzker connections. Blue Haven was set up by Liesel Pritzker Simmons, and her husband Ian Simmons.

Last year, the Family Capital’s Investor of the Year Award went to John Elkann and his family’s Turin-based investment group Exor.