Kenneth Cordele Griffin was born on October 15, 1968, in Daytona Beach, FL. His family did well for themselves; his father worked at General Electric as a project manager, and his grandmother was the heiress to both an oil and a seed business. She also owned three farms.
Having to watch his grandmother manage the assets she inherited likely helped Ken develop a knack for business at a very early age. As you’ll see, Ken Griffin has always displayed exceptional skills when it comes to growing money and making savvy deals.
Read on to discover Ken Griffin’s net worth, the steps he took to become one of the most successful investors in the world, and how he likes to spend his money when he’s not at work turning profits.
Education and Early Projects
Griffin showed academic prowess from an early age. He was quite advanced for his years, starting projects and even businesses as a teenager. Griffin was president of the math club at Boca Raton Community High School. During that same time, he started his own business called EDCOM out of his bedroom. With EDCOM, Griffin sold education software at a discounted price through the mail.
With that kind of gumption in tow, Griffin would find himself at Harvard University in 1986. He made $5,000 during his freshman year when he decided to purchase put options on the Home Shopping Network.
And Griffin didn’t stop there. He also decided to invest in convertible arbitrage strategies on the stock market. This market-neutral investment strategy is popular with hedge funds, which would go on to become Griffin’s forte.
While Griffin was at Harvard, school administrators disallowed students from running businesses on campus. However, they granted Griffin permission to put a satellite dish on the roof of his dorm so that he could receive stock quotes.
Unsurprisingly, Griffin pursued a degree in economics while he wasn’t busy thinking up innovative money-making strategies. He graduated from Harvard in 1989, and shortly after, he moved to Chicago.
So, what about Chicago was calling to Ken Griffin? It was actually Frank Meyer, who is the founder of Glenwood Capital Investments. Meyer had just recently founded Glenwood in 1987. The goal of Glenwood Capital Investments was to combine hedge fund investing with venture capital and private equity investments. By the year 2000, Glenwood had about $1.8 billion to manage in their network. Needless to say, this was a pretty good place for Griffin to launch his career straight out of college.
Frank Meyer obviously trusted the young Ken Griffin, as he gave him one million dollars in Glenwood capital to trade. Griffin did incredibly well with his first million at the company, proving himself to be a top player in the hedge fund world.
Naturally, someone with this talent for investment would go on to found their own firm at some point. It was only a year into his work with Glenwood that Ken Griffin decided to found Citadel LLC. He had about $4.6 million in assets to work with, which came in part from his success at Glenwood.
In 2003, a 34-year-old Griffin became the youngest self-made millionaire on the Forbes 400 list. At the time, his net worth was sitting at around $650 million.
Other Business Ventures and Citadel’s Success
In addition to establishing his own firm, Griffin also found time to be the lead investor at Aragon Global Management from 2003-2009. This venture was less successful for Griffin, as he lost 20% of his investment in that fund. Even the best strategists in the game see losses from time to time!
As Citadel grew, Griffin began earning more and more money each year. In 2009, he made $900 million in profit. In 2014, he hit $1.4 billion. In 2019, he made $1.5 billion, and in 2020, his profits came out to be about $1.8 billion.
Citadel LLC currently has about $35 million in assets under management, of which Ken Griffin owns about 85%. The company, which is headquartered in Griffin’s home of Chicago, employs about 1,400 people. They also house some operational headquarters in New York City.
The GameStop Short Squeeze
Like many other hedge fund moguls, Ken Griffin was embroiled in controversy based on his reaction to the GameStop short squeeze of January 2021. Part of the drama had to do with the fact that on January 25, Citadel announced a decision to invest $2 billion into Melvin Capital, which is a young firm led by Gabriel Plotkin.
A short squeeze is a rapid increase in the price of a stock that happens as a result of an excess short selling of that stock. Short selling lets investors make a profit if the stock’s value decreases. The GameStop short squeeze began when members of a subreddit called r/wallstreetbets came together to short squeeze the stock. They did this because they believed institutional investors were undervaluing the stock, thus behaving in a shady way that would hurt lower-level investors.
Melvin Capital Management experienced bad losses as a result of the GameStop short squeeze. Those losses added up to about 53%. After Q1, Melvin Capital’s assets decreased by around 49%.
Citadel also seemed to be helping out Robinhood, the electronic trading platform led by Vladimir Tenev that was under fire for pausing all purchases of GameStop securities except to cover shorts. Robinhood receives a large chunk of revenue from its relationship with Citadel, which led critics to question if this constituted a conflict of interest.
In February of 2021, Ken Griffin testified in front of the House Financial Services Committee. He did so in order to try to clear up his part in the GameStop short squeeze controversy. Despite his explanations, though, many critics still think it’s wrong for one entity to both make the market and participate in the market at the same time.
Like many in the financial world, Griffin has received a lot of criticism, but also a lot of praise. He has won multiple awards and honors. In 2008, he received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, which is a non-profit educational group. The group tries to connect successful people from an array of fields with young, up-and-coming leaders. The Mayor of Chicago at the time, Richard M. Daley, presented Griffin with the award.
In 2008, Griffin was also inducted into the Institutional Investors Alpha’s Hedge Fund Manager Hall of Fame. (Yes, that’s a thing!) In 2017, he was honored with the Institutional Investor’s Lifetime Achievement Award. That same year, he also received a Navy SEAL Foundation Patriot Award.
Net Worth and Lifestyle
Now that we’ve talked about how Ken Griffin built his fortune, we can finally discuss how much money he’s worth now. According to Forbes, Ken Griffin is currently worth $16.1 billion. At the time of writing, he is ranked at #119 on the list of 2021’s wealthiest billionaires.
So, what does a net worth of over $16 billion get you? Quite a lot it turns out.
Ken Griffin especially enjoys buying modern art from mainstream artists. His current art collection is valued at about $800 million. In 2015, Griffin participated in the largest private art deal in history when he bought two paintings from David Geffen.
David Geffen is known as a business magnate and producer. He is the founder of DreamWorks SKG, Asylum Records, Geffen Records, and DGC Records. He sold Griffin Interchange by Willem de Kooning, a 1955 oil painting, for $300 million in this deal. He also sold Griffin a Jackson Pollock painting named Number 17A. The Jackson Pollock cost Griffin $200 million.
Other notable purchases that display Griffin’s wealth include his 1999 acquisition of Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl, which cost him $60 million. At the time, that was also a record for an art deal. The painting was an original Paul Cézanne from 1893. In 2006, Griffin added False Start by Jasper Johns for his collection for $80 million. That painting, too, was purchased from David Geffen. In 2015, Griffin bought Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Picture, 599 for $46 million.
And that’s just a tiny fraction of his art collection!
In addition to loving art, Griffin also likes to spend his money on real estate. His personal residences at the moment combined are valued at about one billion dollars.
Griffin is great at breaking records. In 2017, he bought a luxury penthouse apartment in Chicago. The deal cost him $58.75 million, which broke the record for the most expensive sale in Chicago history.
In 2019, Griffin bought a mansion in London for $122 million, which was another real estate sale that broke not just one, but several records.
As if that wasn’t enough, Griffin also set the record for the most costly residential sale to ever take place in the United States. He bought around 24,000 square feet of space at 220 Central Park South in New York City, which cost him $238 million. That’s about 3-4 floors of space that’s been left unfurnished so that Griffin can build it out the way he wants to.
Needless to say, Griffin is doing pretty well for a man of only 52 years old. If he can keep on this path of nonstop success, as he has since he was making his own education software as a teenager in his bedroom, he’ll be sitting on top of the Forbes list for many years to come.