Ken Griffin pulling Citadel out of Chicago

Ken Griffin announced Thursday he’s moving his family and the headquarters of Citadel to Miami.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Ken Griffin, the richest Illinoisan, is taking his family, his billions of dollars and his companies and leaving Chicago.

He made the announcement Thursday in a memo to employees. Griffin said the headquarters of his Citadel hedge fund and his trading firm, Citadel Securities, will move to Miami, what 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 remain, how many is unknown.

Griffin’s announcement said he has moved his family to Miami. He offered no parting shots at Chicago or Illinois but has been unsparing in his comments about surging downtown-area crime and about local tax and regulatory policies. He has made threats to leave for months.

With a net worth estimated by Forbes at more than $25 billion. Griffin has been Chicago’s leading philanthropist, donating about $500 million to local causes with plans to give more, but he’s also been noted for his heavy spending on politicians. He has dumped $50 million into the campaign of Richard Irvin, running in the Republican primary for governor but faring poorly in a recent Sun-Times/WBEZ poll.

“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 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 he praised past support from political and business leaders. But he has said in other forums that rising crime has made it harder to attract top talent to Citadel, resulting in the firms adding to their headcounts in other cities while trimming it in Chicago.

He said the new headquarters will be on Brickell Bay, in Miami’s business district. Citadel said it has retained Chicago developer Sterling Bay to manage the project. It plans to lease space in Miami until the building is finished.

His announcement comes on the heels of the Chicago region losing the corporate headquarters of Boeing and Caterpillar, a worrisome trend balanced slightly by news this week that one of three companies cereal and snacks maker Kellogg will split into, the largest, will be based in Chicago.

In April, Griffin expanded on the crime issue in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “If people aren’t safe here, they’re not going to live here,” he said. “I’ve had multiple colleagues mugged at gunpoint. I’ve had a colleague stabbed on the way to work. Countless issues of burglary. I mean, that’s a really difficult backdrop with which to draw talent to your city from.”

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