At a recent meeting of executives in Chicago, Hyatt Chairman Thomas J. Pritzker publicly bemoaned the sorry state of the travel industry, noting that even well-to-do travelers are trading down to lower-priced hotels. "Lodging share prices today are generally no more than half of their peak levels from 2006-2007," says Michael Paladino, a hotel industry analyst at Fitch Ratings. The answer lies with Chicago's Pritzker family, which controls 85% of the company through family trusts.

The Pritzker dynasty can be traced to Nicholas J. Pritzker, an immigrant from Ukraine who founded a law firm in Chicago at the turn of the century. His grandsons, Jay, Robert, and Donald, greatly expanded the fortune. Jay Pritzker acquired the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles International Airport in 1957 and built it into the lodging industry giant it is today.

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