In 1986 a young Harvard freshman pulled together $265,000 from friends, family and his grandmother to start his very first hedge fund out of his dorm room. Two decades later, that young college freshman is now the CEO of the Citadel Group, a financial powerhouse that houses a trifecta of companies in the financial industry. Citadel Technology, Citadel Securities, and of course the crown jewel: Citadel, a monster hedge fund that manages some $26 million in assets.
In 2003, Ken Griffin made his first appearance on Forbes 400, with an estimated net worth of $650 million. In 2004, he was ranked by Fortune magazine as the eighth richest self-made man in America under the age of 40. He was 35. Each year he climbed higher and higher on the Forbes 400. In 2007 he had an estimated personal net worth of $3 billion. By 2014, he was 89th on the list with a personal net worth of $5.5 billion.
But far from sitting on his wealth, Griffin has established himself as a philanthropist and generous contributor to a number of causes he is passionate about. As a vocal advocate of charter schools, he and his wife partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to open the Woodlawn High School charter school in Chicago in October 2006. In February of 2014, he gave $150 million to his alma mater, which was largely earmarked for need-based undergraduate financial aid. At the time it set the record for the largest single gift to the University in Harvard’s nearly 500 year history.
That’s also not the only record breaking contribution Griffin has made a name on wallstreetjournal. In June, 2014 he also broke donor records by writing the single largest check ever by making a single contribution in the amount of $2.5 million to help Illinois’ GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Bruce Rauner defeat Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. But Griffin’s political contributions also don’t stop at the Illinois state line. He has also financially aided the campaigns of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney not to mention Chicago’s own Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Griffin’s financial generosity also extends far beyond political and personal causes. Through the Citadel Group Foundation he has contributed to the Art Institute of Chicago,as well as being on its Board of Trustees. He has also made generous contributions to the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Public Library and the Robin Hood Foundation. He also gives generously of both his time and his money to the University of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
But one goal that has always eluded him has been an IPO for his hedge fund. After nearly collapsing during the financial crisis, he has brought it back from the brink to managing a beefy $26 million in assets. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Citadel might be considering an IPO in 2016, and in an interview with Griffin he seemed to be in favor of the idea. Others have tried with varying success, but Griffin might just be the Midas that turns a hedge fund IPO into a pot of gold.