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The Two-Minute Guide to Ken Griffin’s Local Handouts

If the hedge fund manager and his company move to New York, as he’s reportedly considered, Chicago could lose one of its biggest benefactors.

Illustration by Tim Peacock
Illustration: Tim Peacock

What’s the deal?

The richest person in Illinois (with a net worth of $11.6 billion), Ken Griffin is a philanthropist who likes giving big. The founder and CEO of the investment firm Citadel has his name everywhere in town thanks to the some $300 million he’s pumped into Chicago museums, schools, and public services. Which is why the prospect of a move to New York (he just bought a $240 million penthouse there) must have certain local institutions nervous.

Politicians who have benefited from his open checkbook would certainly miss him, too. Griffin, who has called himself a Republican, has given nearly $60 million directly to Illinois candidates (not including money given to political action committees) since 2002, mostly within his party. But when a moderate, probusiness Democrat faces a serious challenge from the far left, Griffin is known to throw a (gilded) bone across the aisle.

Most Noteworthy Megagifts

University of Chicago

$150 million (since 2005)
For:The economics department, which now bears his name
Why:Griffin’s been on the university’s board since 2014 and has said he’s a fan of the department’s “extraordinary work.”

Field Museum

$27 million (since 2004)
For:The permanent exhibition on the evolving planet, named after him, and the new titanosaur installation
Why:Large donation, large planet, large dinosaur — the man likes big things.

Art Institute of Chicago

$19 million (2006)
For:The construction of the Modern Wing (through a gift from the Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation, the now-defunct charitable venture he had with his former wife), which opened in 2009
Why:Griffin is a museum trustee and an avid art collector.

Lurie Children’s Hospital

$16 million (2010)
For:An emergency care center that opened in 2012 (donated by the Griffin Foundation)
Why:His ex was a longtime board member and sat on the hospital’s investment committee.

Chicago Park District

$15 million (since 2016)
For:Separate bike and running paths on the Lakefront Trail, completed in December, and mini soccer fields
Why:He’s a runner, a cyclist, and a friend Rahm Emanuel could call on when a project needed a cash IV.

Chicago Police Department

$10 million (2018)
For:The contentious Strategic Decision Support Centers, which work with U. of C.’s Crime Lab to predict crime using data
Why:To attract “more opportunities” to Chicago, Griffin said at a press event.

Top Political Beneficiaries

1. Bruce Rauner (Republican)

$36 million
For:2014 (won) and 2018 (lost) gubernatorial campaigns

2. Jim Durkin (Republican)

$11 million
For:2016 (won, unopposed) and 2018 (won) Illinois House races

3. Leslie Munger (Republican)

$5 million
For:2014 Illinois House (lost) and 2016 state comptroller (lost) races

4. Bill Daley (Democrat)

$2 million
For:2019 mayoral run (lost)

5. Bill Brady (Republican)

$1.7 million
For:2010 gubernatorial (lost) and 2018 Illinois Senate (won, unopposed) runs

6. Erika Harold (Republican)

$1.7 million
For:2018 state attorney general campaign (lost)

7. Rahm Emanuel (Democrat)

For:2015 mayoral reelection campaign (won)


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