In 1986, a young college sophomore scraped together $265,000 from friends, family and his grandmother to start his very first hedge fund from his college dorm room. The industrious sophomore installed a satellite link which allowed him to collect market data in real time, a strategy which allowed him to preserve capital during the stock market crash of 1987. That allowed him to launch a second fund which gave him just over $1.1 million in capital to manage before he ever graduated from college.
That young man was Ken Griffin, a multi-billionaire listed as the 69th richest American on Forbes upcoming 400 list, with an estimated worth of $7 billion. He started on the list in 2003 with an estimated net worth of $650 million at the tender young age of 34. He has steadily climbed the list every year, topping out at #91 in 2014, with an estimated net worth of $5.5 billion.
As avidly as Kenneth Griffin makes money, however, he seems to be equally diligent about giving it away. He has made several record breaking contributions, including a single gift of $150 million to his alma mater, Harvard University. Rather than designating the money to erect buildings in his honor, however, Griffin earmarked the money primarily for income based tuition assistance on citadel.com. As a longtime supporter of charter schools, he partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to open Wood Lawn High School, a charter school in Chicago, as well as giving significant donations to Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center. The CHECC is an experimental school run by Dr. John A. List, an Economics Professor at the University of Chicago. The experiment is designed to test whether investing in teachers or in parents results in better student performance.
Griffin is also actively involved in supporting political candidates that share his views and wrote another record breaking check in the amount of $2.5 million to GOP candidate Bruce Rauner to help him defeat Democratic Governor Pat Quinn in the 2014 elections. But Rauner is also not the only political candidate Griffin has financially supported. He has also made significant contributions to the campaigns of multiple political figures around the country, including former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, U.S. Representative of Virginia Eric Cantor, Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley as well as the current Democratic Governor Rahm Emanuel.
Recently, Griffin has made headlines again for his record breaking spending, but this time in the area of real estate. In the past two years Griffin has spent a reported $300 million on residential properties and has set spending records in three major markets: Chicago, New York and Miami. In Chicago, he purchased two floors of the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel, with a combined value of $29.3 million. In New York he snapped up three floors of the 220 Central Park South condo tower which is still under construction in Midtown for $200 million. In Miami he plopped down a whopping $60 million for the penthouse at Faena House in Miami Beach, which reportedly put him $10 million over the already staggering asking price.