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Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner moves toward run for governor

Bruce Rauner chairman Choose Chicago speaks Chicago SouthlConventi  Visitors Bureau's annual meeting Oak Lawn.File Photo. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.

Bruce Rauner, chairman of Choose Chicago, speaks at the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau's annual meeting in Oak Lawn.File Photo. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: April 7, 2013 6:31AM

Millionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner moved a step closer toward running for governor by announcing Tuesday he is forming an exploratory campaign committee and embarking on a 60-day “listening tour” across the state.

“We need major changes in the way we tax and spend, the way we treat businesses and workers, the way we deal with our state budget and pensions, and the way we run our schools,” said Rauner, 56, in a statement issued Tuesday. “The political class in Springfield [is] either unwilling to, or incapable of, making the kind of changes we need.”

Rauner was not available for interviews, a spokesman said.

Rauner has served as an advisor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and was vocal in his opposition to the Chicago Teachers Union during contract negotiations last year. He and his wife, Diana, have donated money to help build several charter schools in the city, one of which bears his name.

He headed up Chicago private equity firm GTCR until stepping down late last year, and is currently chairman of the venture capital firm R8 Partners.

Rauner, who’s never run for public office before, lives in the Loop, grew up in Deerfield, and has six children. He attended Dartmouth College and earned an MBA from Harvard.

Rauner first floated his name for the 2014 gubernatorial race three years ago. He is an investor in the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times, Wrapports LLC. He joins a crowded field of Republicans eying a bid for the Executive Mansion.

Other possible contenders include state Treasurer Dan Rutherford; state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), the 2010 GOP nominee for governor; state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale); U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.); and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.).

A poll commissioned last November by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm had Rauner at the bottom of the pack among potential 2014 Republican candidates for governor, drawing support from 7 percent of the poll’s respondents.

Rauner’s exploratory committee is stocked with prominent Chicago business leaders, including Miles White, chairman and CEO of Abbott Laboratories and also a Wrapports investor; James Kenny, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and former owner of Kenny Construction; billionaire Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel; Jack Roeser, conservative activist and founder of Otto Engineering; and John Rowe, former CEO of Exelon Corp.

The list of business titans did not faze Dillard.

“It’s an exploratory committee, not an endorsement committee,” said Dillard, who considers Rauner a friend. “Many of the people of his lists have been past supporters and are friends of mine, too. ... There may be a major role for Mr. Rauner that is not the actual governorship his committee will recommend.”

Contributing: Dave McKinney

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