Ken Griffin’s citadel abandons Chicago for Miami following felony complaints

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Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin is moving his company Citadel to Miami from Chicago, following his earlier threats to leave the city due to rising crime rates.

In an email to employees seen by the Financial Times on Thursday, Griffin described Miami as a “growing metropolis that embodies the American dream” and said he recently moved there with his family. Citadel Securities, Griffin’s market-making firm, will also be moving.

Corporate relocations out of the Chicago area have been in the spotlight lately, as Citadel is the third major company to leave Illinois in less than two months. Boeing announced in May that it would be moving its headquarters to the Washington, DC area, and Caterpillar announced earlier this month that it would be moving its base near Dallas.

The exits of the American manufacturing giants were largely symbolic and should have less economic impact. Griffin’s decision, however, is more significant, as he provides Chicago with substantial, steady, nonpartisan material support that could go away with him.

Griffin has donated more than $600 million to Chicago organizations and contributed directly to infrastructure projects such as the redevelopment of the city’s Lakefront Trail along Lake Michigan.

“It’s really a clarion call,” Todd Maisch, the chief executive of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, told the Financial Times last week, adding “the problem is, for the rest of the business community , what if Ken Griffin decides to move out?”

Corporate moves will likely be a theme in the state’s gubernatorial election in November, in which Griffin threw in $50 million to back a Republican primary candidate.

Griffin, who did not explicitly cite crime as the reason for the relocation in Thursday’s memo, has been threatening to leave Chicago for some time.

It is “increasingly difficult to have this as a world headquarters, a city that has so much violence. Chicago is like Afghanistan, on a good day,” Griffin told the Economic Club of Chicago last October.

He had previously asked Governor JB Pritzker to deploy the National Guard to tackle the city’s crime problem, and said it was “a shame” that Pritzker “won’t step up to the challenge of tackling crime in our city”.

He noted that Citadel was not in Chicago “as much as we were in 2013” now that New York has become the hedge fund’s “focal point”. The fund employs more than 1,000 people in Chicago.

Griffin also lamented that it became harder to recruit workers in Chicago “when they read the headlines.”

Many Chicago employees “have asked to relocate to Miami, New York and our other offices around the world,” Griffin said in the announcement.

Citadel, which was founded in Chicago by Griffin more than three decades ago, is among the world’s largest hedge funds with $51 billion in assets under management. Citadel Securities, meanwhile, is the largest trader of US stocks.

Chicago “will continue to be important to the future of Citadel, as many of our colleagues have deep ties to Illinois,” Griffin added.

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