Antoin "Tony" Rezko (born July 1955) is a political fundraiser, restaurateur, and real estate developer in Chicago, Illinois, convicted on several counts of fraud and bribery in 2008. Rezko has been involved in fundraising for local Illinois Democratic and Republican politicians since the 1980s. After becoming a major contributor to Rod Blagojevich's successful gubernatorial election, Rezko assisted Blagojevich in setting up the state's first Democratic administration in twenty years. Rezko was able to have business associates appointed onto several state boards. Rezko and several others were indicted on federal charges in October 2006, for using their connections to the state boards to demand kickbacks from businesses that wanted to do business with the state. While the others pleaded guilty to the charges, Rezko pleaded not guilty and was found guilty of 16 of the 24 charges filed against him.
Rezko was born in 1955 in Aleppo, Syria, to a prominent Syrian Catholic family. After graduating from college there, Rezko moved to Chicago and earned an undergraduate and a master's degree in civil engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1970s. He joined an engineering company, designing nuclear power plants, then left to design roads for the state Transportation Department, making $21,590 in his first year there.
Soon after beginning his career as a civil engineer, Rezko started in real estate buying vacant lots and developing single family residences and investing in fast-food restaurants—including the first Subway in Chicago. Many of these properties were in lower-income African American neighborhoods. Then, meeting Jabir Herbert Muhammad, former manager of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and son of the late Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad, he was asked in 1983 to support the successful mayoral candidacy of Harold Washington. J. H. Muhammad's company, Crucial Concessions, which Rezko went to work for in 1984, won a food contract at the Lake Michigan beaches and in many South Side parks after Washington became the first black mayor of Chicago. Rezko put together endorsement deals for Ali, became the executive director of the Muhammad Ali Foundation, and traveled the world with Ali for five years. In 1997, Crucial opened two Panda Express Restaurants at O'Hare, under the city's minority set-aside program. It lost those franchises in 2005, on the grounds that J. H. Muhammad was merely a front for Rezko, who had been appointed trustee of J.H. Muhammad's affairs in the early 1990s because of the latter's failing health. In March 2008 Muhammad sued Rezko, alleging that he had been swindled out of his home and business interests.