Liesel Matthews graced our screens as a child actress, however, her time in the movie industry had a low chance of survival owing to the fact that Matthews hails from a very wealthy family – she is one of the members of the famous Pritzker family who are in control of the Hyatt hotel chains said to worth over $15 billion. She appeared in just three films before quitting the industry to involve herself with other things, chiefly “impact investing”. Here is all you should know about the heiress.
Liesel Matthews’ Bio
Liesel Matthews was born on the 14th of March 1984 in Chicago, Illinois to the wealthy family of Robert Pritzker and his wife Irene (née Dryburgh). She attended New Trier High School, a public four-year high school just outside of Chicago and graduated with the class of 2002.
However, before her high school years, young Liesel Matthews had already taken an interest in acting. At the age of 9, she acted as Scout in a Chicago production of the play, To Kill A Mockingbird and as a result, her talents were discovered. She would go on to play the titular character in the 1995 film A Little Princess which received two Oscar-nominations. Two years later in 1997, she played as the president’s (Harrison Ford’s character) daughter in the thriller Air Force One. In 2002, she appeared in Blast which would become her final film role.
Liesel Matthews had immediately after high school proceeded to attend Columbia University where she hoped to continue acting, however, the lawsuit she filed against her father and her 11 cousins would change the course of her life and lead her to a different path.
Matthews in 2002 discovered that her father and her cousins had been tempering with trust fund set up for her and brother, and as a result, filed a $6 billion lawsuit against them. Liesel and her brother won $900 million from the suit, growing her own personal fortune to over $500 million. She has since dedicated her time to invest the money not only for financial gain but for the benefit of the society and the environment.
Liesel Matthews’ Family
Matthews’ parents who had first met at a Pritzker-owned Hyatt hotel in Australia where her mother Irene worked would come to divorce in 1989, exactly 9 years after their marriage which was in 1980. Liesel wasn’t the only product of their union as they had another child, a son named Matthew Pritzker who was born some years before Liesel.
Liesel Matthews has Jewish roots from her paternal line and is of Australian descent from her maternal roots. Upon her birth, she was given the name Liesel Anne Pritzker as a tribute to the Sound of Music character Liesl von Trapp who was the first daughter of the film’s von Trapp children.
Following her parent’s divorce, her mother, Irene, won custody of her and her brother Matthew, and soon, her father’s dislike for her mother would cause a ripple effect in the family, causing Liesel and her brother to become distant from their father.
Her mother would later remarry a man named James J. Bagley and as a result, Liesel changed her name to Liesel Pritzker-Bagley. When she opted to use her new name for her stage name, her father was angered and threatened to ensure she didn’t have the role in Air Force One. As a result, Liesel chose the stage name Liesel Matthews – in honor of her older brother.
From their father’s first marriage to a certain Audrey Gilbert Pritzker, Liesel and her brother Matthews have three half-siblings namely; Jennifer (born as James, is the first transgender billionaire), Linda, and Karen.
The Pritzker family is traced to a certain Russian émigré Nicolas Pritzker who created what would become one of America’s renowned family empires. Her grandfather is the late A.N. Pritzker who passed on in 1986. He was a financier and industrialist. The Pritzker family would come to gain huge grounds in America thanks to Liesel’s father Robert and his brother Jay Pritzker. Together they started growing the Hyatt hotel chain and founded Marmon Group holding company in 1953.
The Pritzker family has long been a regular on Forbes’ list of wealthiest American families with at least 11 of its members on Forbes 400.
Other Facts About the American Actress
– After winning the suit against her family in 2004, Liesel Matthews in a bid to escape the popularity that came with it fled to Dharamshala, India. There, she came to discover the abject poverty of the people, giving birth to her undying passion for philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.
– Matthews’ interest in acting wanned after her three and a half months stay in India. Upon returning to New York, she enrolled in a cooking school and later completed her studies at Columbia.
– She gave her mother, Irene, $50 million of her fortune to establish an education-based foundation known as IDP Foundation, Inc.
– Liesel Matthews is married to Ian Simmons who is an heir to his family’s Erie Canal and per Forbes estimate is worth over $100 million.
– Matthews is a believer in the controversial wealth tax, she told, BBC in 2019 that one way that wealthy people like her could contribute to society was to be taxed more.