CHICAGO — Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, a force in Illinois politics, is moving his company’s headquarters from Chicago to Miami.
In a note to employees Thursday, Griffin said his investment firm, Citadel, will relocate to new headquarters in Miami’s financial district after more than 30 years in Chicago.
Citadel, which has about 1,000 employees in Chicago, will maintain an office in the city, but many are expected to shift with the corporate locus to the Sunshine State, where Griffin, a Florida native, recently moved with his family.
“Chicago will continue to be important to the future of Citadel, as many of our colleagues have deep ties to Illinois,” Griffin said in his note. “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.”
Ken Griffin’s announcement about Citadel’s move comes at a curious time politically for the billionaire.
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The wealthiest man in Illinois, Griffin founded Citadel in 1990 and built it into one of the largest hedge funds in the world. Worth a reported $27 billion, he has long been a civic force in Chicago, donating more than $1 billion to organizations such as the Art Institute, the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Science and Industry, which announced it would be renamed in honor of Griffin in 2019.
But Griffin, 53, has also been a sharp critic of the city in recent years. In an appearance before the Economic Club of Chicago in October, Griffin cited increased crime and violence on the city streets as one of several reasons why Citadel, which has $51 billion in assets under management, was considering a move to greener corporate pastures.
The Citadel move is the latest corporate blow for the Chicago area, with aerospace giant Boeing announcing last month that it was moving its headquarters to Arlington, Virginia after more than 20 years in the West Loop. Earlier this month, Caterpillar announced it would relocate its headquarters from north suburban Deerfield to an existing office in Irving, Texas, outside Dallas.
The losses are offset somewhat by the announcement Tuesday that Battle Creek, Michigan-based Kellogg Company is splitting into three separate companies and locating its snacks headquarters in Chicago.
“Citadel leadership has been signaling for some time an enhanced presence in Florida, and while this announcement is not surprising, it is still disappointing,” a spokesperson for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “We thank the Citadel team for their contributions to our city and their many philanthropic commitments, particularly around education, arts and culture and public safety.”
In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted recent corporate relocation wins in response to Citadel’s announced exit from Illinois.
“Countless companies are choosing Illinois as their home, as we continue to lead the nation in corporate relocations and had a record number of business start-ups in the past year,” said spokeswoman Emily Bittner. “We will continue to welcome those businesses — including Kellogg, which just this week announced it is moving its largest headquarters to Illinois — and support emerging industries that are already creating good jobs and investing billions in Illinois, like data centers, electric vehicles and quantum computing.”
Beyond the economic fallout, Griffin’s move to Miami could have significant implications for the political realm in Illinois.
A major contributor to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s unsuccessful reelection bid in 2018 against Pritzker, the Democratic challenger, Griffin turned his attention — and his money — to defeating Pritzker’s signature graduated income tax proposal.
Griffin donated $53.75 million to the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike, which blitzed the airwaves with TV ads and helped sink the amendment, which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in November 2020.
More recently, Griffin has contributed $50 million to back Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s campaign to win the nomination as the Republican gubernatorial candidate in next week’s Illinois primary.
Despite leaving the state, Griffin reiterated his commitment to Irvin’s candidacy Thursday.
“Ken continues to believe Richard Irvin is the best candidate for governor of Illinois,” said Zia Ahmed, a Citadel spokesman.
Born in Daytona Beach and raised in Florida, Griffin began trading convertible bonds out of his dorm room during his freshman year at Harvard. He founded Citadel soon after graduating, and built it from scratch into one of the largest hedge funds in the world.
Over the years, Griffin became inextricably tied with Chicago as one its most prominent business leaders, a major philanthropist and a formidable political force. More recently, he has become one its loudest critics, sounding the alarm on crime that he said directly impacted him and Citadel employees.
“There is nowhere you can feel safe” in Chicago, Griffin said at last year’s Economic Club of Chicago event, citing a carjacking attempt on the security detail that sits outside his house as evidence of how deep crime runs in the city.
As the wealthiest man in Illinois, Griffin’s personal life has drawn significant attention as well, such as the 2015 divorce settlement with his then-wife, Anne Dias Griffin. The contentious divorce case revolved around the validity of their prenuptial agreement, along with custody and child support issues. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Griffin has spent more than $800 million in recent years on residential real estate, including $58.75 million in 2017 for the top four floors at 9 W. Walton St. — a record price for a Chicago condominium. In 2019, he bought a four-story penthouse at 220 Central Park South in New York for $239.96 million, setting a U.S. record home price.
Griffin will be putting his Chicago residence up for sale, Ahmed said Thursday.
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