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Hedging his bets? Illinois’ richest person compares Chicago to Afghanistan, hints of moving firm’s headquarters

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin said he personally saw “25 bullet shots in the glass window of the retail space” in the building he lives in, adding that someone “tried to carjack the security detail” that sits outside his house.

Ken Griffin, founder & CEO of Citadel, spoke to the Economic Club of Chicago on Monday.
Ken Griffin, founder & CEO of Citadel, spoke to the Economic Club of Chicago on Monday.
Economic Club of Chicago/Youtube

Billionaire Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of the hedge fund Citadel, hinted Monday that he might move his company’s headquarters from Chicago, saying the crime makes the city more akin to a war-torn country.

“It’s becoming ever more difficult to have this as our global headquarters, a city which has so much violence,” Griffin said. “I mean Chicago is like Afghanistan, on a good day, and that’s a problem.”

Griffin said he personally saw “25 bullet shots in the glass window of the retail space” in the building he lives in, adding that someone “tried to carjack the security detail” that sits outside his house.

Griffin owns a $59 million Chicago condo, the most expensive in the state, according to Forbes.

“It just tells you like how deep crime runs in this city,” Griffin said. “There is nowhere, where you can feel safe today walking home at 9:30 at night and you worry about your kids coming to and from school.”

“That’s no way for our city to exist,” Griffin said.

Ken Griffin, founder & CEO of Citadel, spoke to the Economic Club of Chicago on Monday.
Ken Griffin, founder & CEO of Citadel, spoke to the Economic Club of Chicago on Monday.

The perception of crime has started making it difficult to recruit talent to Citadel’s Chicago campus, he said, and he can’t in good faith tell people the city is a good place to raise a family anymore.

Griffin warned if the city doesn’t “change course,” it’s only a matter of years before Citadel’s global headquarters leaves Chicago.

His comments came during a discussion at the Economic Club of Chicago where he shared his thoughts on such topics as COVID-19 vaccine mandates, cryptocurrency, remote working, government spending and rising inflation.

The richest person in Illinois, Griffin has a net worth of $16 billion, according to Forbes. His Citadel manages $38 billion in assets. Citadel Securities handles more than 20% of trading volume in the U.S. stock market, according to Citadel’s website.

Griffin didn’t say where he might consider moving his global headquarters to, but he was asked if New York City could serve as an “antidote to the dysfunction” of Chicago.

“You guys need some new medicine, too, because some of the same problems that we have faced is now unfolding in New York,” Griffin said. “The path New York is on is a scary path.”

Griffin said there is still time for Chicago and the state to reverse course, citing solutions he has proposed before. They include reforming the city’s pension system, beefing up law enforcement and improving the city’s schools.

Griffin also shared his criticism of Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Griffin was a generous supporter of former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, pumping more than $36 million into the venture capitalist’s campaigns.

And the Citadel founder spent more than $46 million to defeat Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal in 2020.