Contractor awarded nearly $1 million for disputed work on Pritzker mansion
by MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter November 26, 2013 9:43PM
J.B. and M.K. Pritzker with Alexandra and John Nichols of Winnetka. | Photo courtesy of Dan Rest
Updated: December 28, 2013 6:38AM
It was a luxurious Gold Coast mansion slated for an $11.3 million remodeling job — overseen by a Parisian designer — that ballooned to $25 million.
But before it was over, the relationship between J.B. and M.K. Pritzker, the billionaire couple who lived there, and the main contractor doing the work soured, ending in acrimony, lawsuits — and most recently a nearly $1 million jury award.
A jury ordered a firm owned by the Pritzkers — which technically holds the title to the couple’s Gold Coast mansion — to hand over $971,858 still owed to the contractor for renovation work the Pritzkers claimed was shoddy and over cost.
David Schulz’s contracting firm, Harold O. Schulz Co., was in its third year of renovating the home on North Astor Street when work came to a halt in 2010. Lawsuits followed.
Schulz’s firm, claiming breach of contract for nonpayment, sued M.K. and J.B. Pritzker’s company, Astor Street LLC. Astor Street LLC sued for defective work and overbilling.
On Nov. 15, a jury ruled in favor of Schulz’s company and awarded it the $971,858.
Schulz said he had a solid work history with the couple before the project soured.
“I worked on their home in Lake Geneva, not to mention all the work our firm has done for other members of the Pritzker family. ... I would gladly work with any of them again, except for J.B. and M.K.,” Schulz said Tuesday night.
Neither Pritzker was available for comment.
Schulz said there “clearly was some tension” in his work relationship with M.K. Pritzker that was partially due to the participation of renowned French interior designer, Jacques Garcia, who would fly in several times a year from Paris to consult on the project.
“He’d look at things, and maybe they just weren’t the way he envisioned, and they’d have to be redone. ... It was design as you go. We were trying to meet a schedule. He was on his own schedule,” said Schulz.
Schulz’s initial budget was $11.3 million, but with changes, which were many, the cost rose to nearly $25 million. “That’s also because the initial budget did not even include the coach house that we gutted and re-did,” said Schulz. “The costs on this job were not contract-driven, they were driven by the owner and the owners’ design team,” he said.
Howard Swibel, an attorney representing Astor Street LLC, said in a statement Tuesday: “This was a simple dispute where the contractor failed to complete a job after getting paid for three years.” Swibel said his client is considering an appeal.
Work on the mansion was finished in 2011 by another construction firm, Schulz said.
With a net worth estimated at $3 billion, J.B. Pritzker, 48, a venture capitalist and Hyatt Hotel heir, was ranked by Forbes as the world’s 166th wealthiest person.