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Iraq - Pritzker's next destination

13 Nov 2012
Hyatt’s executive chairman and Chicago’s richest man Thomas Pritzker, is starting businesses in Iraq. Mr. Pritzker joineda former Silicon Valley engineerPaul Brinkley, who was head of a Defence Department task force which worked for western investment in Iraq and Afghanistan till 2011. They together crack the deal of developing war-torn country Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. They announced their first project – developing a port on the Persian Gulf, last month – work will be divided to two other Pritzker holdings. Iraq’s central bank auctioned USD 1 billion in foreign currency, of which four-fifth is funnelled out of the country illegally, airport says to congress two weeks ago. But Iraq’s inspector general proven this wrong and have said about Iraq’s economic growth. According to him, Iraq’s economy grows 10%, production in electricity increasing and oil output reaches a post 1990 high. Mr. Pritzker, 62, an archaeology genius always had an interest in Middle Eastern culture that transcends but does not eclipse business. Four years ago, Hyatt opened an office in Dubai to maintain its growing portfolio in Dubai. He toured Iraq with two other Chicago business buffs, Stephen Wilson, CEO of CF Industries Holdings Inc. and William Strong, CEO of Morgan Stanley. Mr.Brinkley’s task force did a great job between 2006 and 2011. They hosted other US executives too, including James McNerny, CEO of Boeing Co. Mr. Brinkley’s task force credited with attracting more than USD 8 billion in private investment to Iraq and bringing 66 factories there. Mr. Pritzker said, “Peace and prosperity are two sides of the same coin: Viable, profitable businesses contribute to the creation of prosperous communities that enhance stability.” Mr. Pritzker commented about hotel business in Iraq - hotel projects weren't imminent in Iraq and characterized looting in the country as “organized, tribal and unstoppable,” in his 2008 trip, according to a State Department cable published by WikiLeaks. Mr.Pritzker’s one of other company, North America Western Asia Holdings LLC said in October that they would invest more than USD 14 million in Mangal Port which had closed for two decades. It would bring heavy lift crane and container handling capabilities to a berth in Mangal Port. They signed a 10 year privatization deal for construction of container yard. Till it’s unclear what kind of payback they would get or what will be their future work, though initial impact on Mr. Pritzker interests is right. Bermuda-based company Triton Container International Ltd. and Marmon Crane Services Inc. will also help the port project. Mr. Pritzker sells control in Triton to private investors last year and in Marmon Group LLC to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 2008 but Mr. Pritzker is still the MarmonGroup chairman. TOUR OF DUTY Mr. Brinkley, president and CEO of North America Western Asia, has been compared with 19th- and 20th-century British colonial officers for his duty of finding business opportunities on tours and invested afterward. Mr. Brinkley worked for JDS Uniphase Corp. in Milpitas, Calif., the telecom equipment maker company as chief information officer, developed connections with some 250 potential contractors, developed connections withPeoria-based Caterpillar Inc., while in Iraq. Mr. Strong, co-CEO ofMorgan Stanley’s Asia/Pacific business region, claims he nurtured the Brinkley-Pritzker relationship by inviting Messrs.Mr.Pritzker and Stephen Wilsonare ready to join the Iraq tour. When Mr. Strong was a member of the US Military Academy at West Point's board of visitors, investment banker had met Mr. Brinkley through Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Mr. Strong says after witnessedMr. Brinkley's comfortable relationship with Iraqi officials, “He had earned their respect and friendship and, more importantly, their trust,” Mr. Strong adds. “You could clearly see the chemistry was very strong.” Mr. Pritzker is infamous for his international bent. He is the CEO of the Hyatt Foundation, whose Pritzker Architecture Prize has honored Baghdad native ZahaHadid. They collect Asian art and goes on digs in the Himalayas. Hyatt is agreed to manage three new hotels in Saudi Arabia this year. Hyatt’s growth in Arabia is competing with its global presence. Mr. Strong says, “To have people there, you have to have hotels”. He also praises, “He really is extremely knowledgeable about the culture, the people and the legacy these countries have”. Source: [Chicago Business]
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