Ken Griffin pulls Citadel out of Chicago

Ken Griffin, the wealthiest Illinois man, takes his family, his billions of dollars and his businesses and leaves Chicago.

He announced this in a memo to employees on Thursday. Griffin said the headquarters of his Citadel hedge fund and trading firm Citadel Securities will be relocating to Miami, which he called a “vibrant, growing metropolis that embodies the American dream.”

The move is expected to take several years. The firms have more than 1,000 employees in Chicago, and while some are expected to stay, it’s unknown how many.

Griffin’s announcement states that he has moved to Miami with his family. He didn’t offer farewell shots in Chicago or Illinois, but he was blunt in his comments about rising downtown crime and local tax and regulatory policies. For months he threatened to leave the country.

With a net worth of more than $25 billion estimated by Forbes. Griffin was Chicago’s leading philanthropist, giving about $500 million to local causes with plans to donate more, but he’s also known for his heavy spending to politicians. He has poured $50 million into the campaign of Richard Irvin, who is running for governor in the Republican primary but fares poorly in a recent Sun-Times/WBEZ poll.

“Chicago will continue to be important to Citadel’s future as many of our colleagues have deep ties to Illinois,” Griffin said in his memo to employees. “Over the past year, however, many of our Chicago teams have asked to relocate to Miami, New York and our other offices around the world.”

Griffin called Chicago a “remarkable home” for Citadel and praised its past support from political and business leaders. But he said on other forums that rising crime has made it harder to attract top talent to Citadel, leading the companies to increase their headcount in other cities while downsizing in Chicago.

He said the new headquarters will be in Brickell Bay in Miami’s CBD. Citadel said it has hired Chicago developer Sterling Bay to manage the project. It is planned to rent space in Miami until the building is completed. Griffin was not made available for an interview.

His announcement follows the loss of Chicago-area corporate headquarters for Boeing and Caterpillar, a worrying trend offset slightly this week by news that one of three companies that cereal and snack maker Kellogg will split into will be the largest , will be based in Chicago . And in a victory for the city at the expense of the suburbs, Abbott said it would move 450 HQ workers downtown from Lake County.

In April, Griffin addressed the issue of crime in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “If people are not safe here, they will not live here,” he said. “I’ve had several co-workers who were ambushed at gunpoint. I stabbed a colleague on the way to work. Countless burglary problems. I mean, that’s a really difficult background to attract talent to your city.”

Griffin said carjackers addressed his security detail but didn’t get his vehicle.

Citadel executives have cited crimes near the homes of several employees and also noted that the headquarters at 131 S. Dearborn St. was vandalized during the 2020 downtown riots.

Griffin attacked Governor JB Pritzker for not having a strategy to deal with the crime wave. It has become an Illinois war of billionaires, with Pritzker himself spending millions campaigning for re-election.

A Pritzker spokeswoman, Emily Bittner, did not directly address Griffin’s departure. She said, “Countless companies are choosing Illinois as their home as we continue to lead the nation in business relocation and had a record number of company formations in the past year.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said: “Citadel leadership has been signaling an increased presence in Florida for some time, and while this announcement is not surprising, it is nonetheless disappointing. We thank the Citadel team for their contributions to our city and their many philanthropic commitments, particularly in the areas of education, arts and culture, and public safety. We know Citadel will maintain a significant presence in Chicago and its history would not be possible without the great strengths of our city.”

But factors other than crime may also play a role. Florida has no state income tax, which benefits any worker who decides to relocate, but especially those with high salaries. It’s also possible that Griffin may find the Sunshine State’s politics more to his liking.

Griffin was born in Daytona Beach, Florida and later moved to Boca Raton, closer to Miami. Multiple media outlets have reported on his habit of buying ultra-expensive homes in areas where Citadel has offices, including several properties on Miami’s Star Island. The Wall Street Journal in 2020 said his various purchases totaled more than $1 billion.

On site, evidence of his expenses is preserved in other ways. With its $125 million donation, the Museum of Science and Industry announced it would be naming itself after Griffin, though it didn’t implement the change. There was no word from the museum on whether Griffin’s exit from Chicago would affect that plan.

He supported the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s research into the causes of violence. Griffin funded the construction of 50 mini soccer fields across the city and enabled segregation of cyclists and runners along the Lakefront Trail. His generosity supported food donation programs during the pandemic.

Griffin founded the Citadel hedge fund in Chicago in 1990. It has become one of the most successful alternative investment vehicles for wealthy individuals and institutions. The company said it has continued to perform well this year despite a bear market, with assets up 13% through May.

Founded in 2002, Citadel Securities has grown to become the world’s leading market maker, which are firms tasked with continually buying and selling stocks to ensure ease of trading. In January, the company received an outside minority stake that valued the entire company at $22 billion.

Ken Griffin’s philanthropy

According to Citadel, Ken Griffin has given more than $600 million to educational, cultural, medical, and civic organizations over the past 30 years.

Some of his donations:

May 2022 – $25 million to start two academies at the University of Chicago that will provide six months of training to police leaders here and across the country, as well as people who lead violence disruption groups.

March 2020 – Griffin and partners in his financial firms donated $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools and $1.5 million to the Chicagoland Food Pantry to help deliver breakfast and lunch to city kids at home while their schools are closed due to the pandemic.

October 2019 – The Museum of Science and Industry will now be called the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry after the Chicago billionaire donated $125 million. It is the largest single gift in the history of the museum, which opened in 1933.

April 2018 – A $10 million grant from Griffin signed the Chicago Police Department and University of Chicago Crime Lab collaboration through 2019, with a portion of the money going to an “innovation fund.” The money also helped improve services for civil servants, including training, stress management and mental health treatment.

December 2017 — The Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund donated $3 million to pave the way for the construction of 50 miniature soccer fields across the city over the next five years. The announcement was made at Gage Park as part of a US Soccer Foundation nationwide campaign entitled It’s Everyone’s Game.

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