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Gov. Pritzker's speedboats among most expensive on Geneva Lake

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CHICAGO — When Gov. J.B. Pritzker was caught speeding on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin last month, he was driving a sleek, custom-built wooden speedboat that's among the most expensive on the lake.

At 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 7, the Geneva Lake Law Enforcement Agency issued Pritzker a warning for traveling 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit, according to Tom Hausner, commander of the agency.

Pritzker was traveling on Williams Bay at 41 mph, Pritzker's press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh told the Tribune last week. Boats on Geneva Lake are prohibited from reaching speeds of more than 35 mph during the weekend, which begins Friday at noon, and more than 15 mph from sunset to sunrise, according to the village of Williams Bay boating regulations.

The Geneva Lake Law Enforcement Agency issues a handful of speeding warnings every day, Hausner said.

"He did not receive preferential treatment," Hausner said of Pritzker. "My officers didn't even realize he was a governor until the warning was issued."

The boat Pritzker was driving is a brown, 28.7-foot wooden craft built in 2010 by Van Dam Custom Boats, a luxury wooden boat maker based in Boyne City, Michigan, according to a copy of the June 7 warning Pritzker received and the boat's Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recreational vehicle information report, documents obtained by the Tribune.

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The address linked to the boat's DNR information report is associated with Pritzker Group Asset Management, a private investment firm that Pritzker founded with an older brother.

A Van Dam representative said the boat in question was the company's "Don Don" model.

The Don Don model is described on the Van Dam website as a "contemporary boat with exotic automotive style," built with "mahogany milled from a single log" and a stainless steel steering wheel, and able to reach speeds of more than 60 mph.

Brian Jahns, a sales executive at Gage Marine on Williams Bay, who has sold wooden boats in Lake Geneva for 27 years, said the Don Don is "ultrarare."

"The Don Don is one-of-a-kind -- there's nothing like it anywhere," Jahns said. "It's cigarette-style, a go-fast boat, sleek." Jahns estimated the boat is valued at $800,000.

The Priztkers also own a Van Dam boat called the Theodora, a 30-foot wooden speedboat with seats that are robin's egg blue, Jahns said. The boat travels around 50 mph and was built to "handle the choppy waters of Lake Geneva," according to the Van Dam website. Jahns estimated that when the Pritzker family bought the boat, it was valued in the $500,000 range and is now in the $700,000 range.

The Don Don and the Theodora are among just three or four boats of that price range on Geneva Lake, Jahns added.

"In this day and age, wooden boats by Van Dam are in the upper echelon," he said. "Van Dam would be one of the highest -- if not the highest -- quality available."

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