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Kenneth Griffin is one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the United States and is considered to be something of an investment prodigy by his peers. Just like Mark Zuckerberg, Griffin got his start from a dorm room while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. He started with just a fax machine, telephone and basic personal computer, and he built his first hedge fund from a $265,000 investment gathered from his personal savings and from people he knew, including his grandmother. The fund was a meteoric success, and Griffin profited handsomely from the 1987 stock market crash at the end of his time in college. He graduated with a degree in economics, and then he went on to found the major hedge fund Citadel, which he currently manages. At its peak, the fund was worth $24 billion, but due to the 2008 financial collapse, its value contracted somewhat.
Griffin became acquainted with the wealthy investment guru Frank Meyer while Griffin was still in college. Meyer discovered Griffin as he made one successful investment after another, and when Griffin graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics, Meyer gave Griffin $1,000,000 to invest in stocks. The investment paid more than 70 percent in interest, and Meyer and other investors profited substantially. Two years later, in 1990, Griffin invested $4.2 million in Citadel. From the very beginning, the hedge fund performed extremely well, and Griffin soon became one of the most successful self-made investors in the country. He was still in his early twenties, and by the time he was 34, he was ranked in the top 10 wealthiest self-made American investors by Forbes magazine. For every year since 2004, Griffin has been named on the Forbes list of wealthiest people in the world.
Griffin is an enthusiastic art collector and has purchased artwork by such artistic luminaries as Paul Cezanne and Jasper Johns. The painting by Jasper Johns was purchased for $80 million from David Geffen, the co-founder of Dreamworks film studio. Griffin has donated a sum of $19 million to the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as lending the institute a sculpture by Edgar Degas and a painting by Cezanne. These two pieces are currently on display at the museum.
In addition to managing Citadel and investing in art, Griffin spends quite a bit of time doing philanthropy work. He has devoted a lot of time to improving the nation’s public school system, remarking that the country’s future directly depends on the quality of the public schools. Griffin devotes time to multiple philanthropic causes, including early childhood development, public healthcare and education. He has participated in economic research designed to find out whether investing in parents is a more effective strategy for improving education than investing in schools. He has also donated $150 million to a financial aid fund for Harvard University, the college from which he graduated.
Griffin believes strongly in less government regulation in the financial system, and he is an avid supporter of investing in credit-based derivatives. His experience developing profitable hedge funds has led him to the conclusion that these investments can significantly reduce the risk of modern financial trading.