Ken Griffin goes on $290 million real estate spree

Kenneth Griffin
Amanda Gordon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin is known as an aggressive trader who waits for prices to fall before buying. But when it comes to personal real estate, Mr. Griffin appears to be less price-sensitive.

Over the last two years, Mr. Griffin, the chief executive of the investment firm Citadel, has gone on a multicity real estate shopping spree. He has spent nearly $300 million and set new price records in three cities, according to people familiar with his buying. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the deals.

The buying binge includes the purchase last year of two full floors of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Chicago, the city where Citadel is based and where Mr. Griffin, 46, has his main residence. He paid $13.3 million for the 37th floor and $16 million for the 46th floor, totaling just under $30 million. If combined, the deal would be the most expensive real estate purchase in Chicago.

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In New York this year, Mr. Griffin agreed to purchase three full floors — totaling over 18,000 square feet — at 220 Central Park South, the condo tower under construction in Midtown. According to people familiar with the deal, the purchase includes a main residence as well as several other apartments that could be used for staff or guests. Mr. Griffin paid around $200 million for the space — a price that brokers say is a record in New York.

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People familiar with the deal say Mr. Griffin doesn't plan to live in his new space at 220 Central Park South, since he recently renovated another apartment in Manhattan. They say it was purchased as more of an investment.

Still, the apartment would be a short walk to his potential new offices. Citadel is in talks to lease over 200,000 square feet of space in a new office tower at 425 Park Avenue. Citadel is based in Chicago but is expanding in New York, and is considering going public.

According to terms being discussed, Citadel would pay $300 a square foot annually for some of the new space — which is believed to be highest rate ever paid for commercial space in New York.

Mr. Griffin is also making waves in Miami. According to people familiar with the deal, Mr. Griffin closed last month on the penthouse of Faena House in Miami Beach for $60 million — a record for Miami and $10 million over the original asking price. Faena House, a luxury condo tower on Collins Avenue, has an in-house spa, a fitness center, a private club, a concierge service and a round-the-clock doorman.

The penthouse is more than 12,500 square feet and has a media room, great room and dressing room, as well as a 70-foot-long infinity pool on its 9,900-square-foot terrace. The unit went into contract more than a year ago, when the building was still under construction, but just closed in September.

Mr. Griffin already owns homes in Aspen, Colo., and Hawaii.

Why is Mr. Griffin spending so much on real estate?

He declined to comment. Yet his spending coincides with another major expense — his divorce. In 2014, Mr. Griffin filed for divorce from his wife of 11 years, Anne Dias Griffin, who has been seeking a larger share of his multibillion-dollar fortune as well as custody of their children. The divorce trial is scheduled for Monday, although a settlement is possible before then.

In court filings, Ms. Dias Griffin said that in 2014, Mr. Griffin earned an average of $100 million a month, or $68.5 million after taxes. Mr. Griffin didn't deny the claim.

So while his new real estate portfolio may sound expensive, the $290 million total still represents only about four months' work.