President Barack Obama Thursday chose two old friends with corporate executive experience for top posts on his economic team, naming longtime fundraiser Penny Pritzker as Commerce secretary and adviser Michael Froman as U.S. trade representative.
Pritzker, a Hyatt hotel heiress, businesswoman and philanthropist, is Obama's pick to fill a Cabinet post that has been vacant since former Secretary John Bryson resigned last summer, after he said he suffered a seizure that led to a series of traffic collisions.
Froman is one of Obama's law school classmates and senior economic advisers who previously worked as an executive at Citigroup. The Cabinet-level trade representative performs as the administration's top adviser and negotiator on international trade.
Obama made the nominations in the White House Rose Garden just before departing for Mexico. He said the two will help fulfill his top priority to grow the economy and create middle class jobs, in part by opening new markets overseas to sell U.S. products.
"They've got a lot of work to do, and I intend to work them to the bone as soon as they're official," Obama said to laughter from a crowd that included the nominees' families and administration staff.
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would become the fourth woman serving as secretary in Obama's current Cabinet. She also would be the wealthiest in the Cabinet by far, with Forbes estimating her net worth at $1.85 billion and ranking her as the 277th richest American.
Pritzker has led several companies and currently serves as chair of investment firms Pritzker Realty Group and Artemis Real Estate Partners. She's also on the board of the Hyatt Hotels Corp., the chain co-founded by her father.
Froman is responsible for coordinating White House policy on international trade, investments, energy, climate and development. He previously worked in various capacities at Citigroup, including as managing partner of the bank.