Chris Kennedy at Chicago's Pride Parade 2017
The election to be Illinois’ next governor is more than a year away and already the spotlight is shining bright on three billionaires: incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner, and Democrats J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy. Of the three, Kennedy has the political pedigree as well as wealth on his side. His family has a net worth of $1.2B.
Kennedy, the eighth of the late Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s 11 children, is chairman of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises and tasked with growing the Kennedy family fortune. Real estate is a major component of that wealth and the Kennedys are a Chicago real estate dynasty.
Joseph Kennedy bought the Merchandise Mart in 1945 and the family managed it even through the Mart’s 1998 sale to Vornado for $450M and a $100M stake in Vornado. Chris Kennedy served as chairman of Merchandise Mart Properties from 2000 until 2012.
For an encore, Kennedy partnered with Hines Interests to develop three apartment towers on Wolf Point. The joint venture delivered Wolf Point West last year, Wolf Point East is under construction and will be followed by Wolf Point South.
Kennedy’s business interests extend beyond real estate. In 2012, he and his wife, Sheila, founded Top Box Foods, a nonprofit that distributes deeply discounted groceries to neighborhoods lacking access to quality supermarkets. Although Kennedy is a political novice, he played a major role in his uncle Ted Kennedy’s failed 1980 presidential bid and his brother Joseph’s congressional run a year later and was a solid fundraiser for Barack Obama’s first White House run.
To gain entry to the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Kennedy will have to face a bruising Democratic primary to challenge Rauner, who has held Illinois’ budget hostage for over two years. One of Kennedy’s main challengers is Pritzker, who also built his fortune in real estate and investments, and Kennedy is campaigning heavily as a friend of the working man because he is significantly less rich than his opponents. The Chicago Tribune estimates he is worth somewhere between $40M and $175M. — Chuck Sudo
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