Shortly after it was revealed that Citadel's billionaire founder, Ken Griffin, purchased a New York penthouse for the record price of $240 million in January confirming once and for all that frontrunning retail orders really does pay, speculation grew that the Chicago-based hedge fund was relocating from the Windy City to the Big Apple. However, following Amazon's recent close encounter with New York socialists which prompted Bezos to scrap plans for a Long Island City HQ2, Griffin may stick to frontrunning the CME instead of the NYSE.
In an interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg TV, Griffin said he’s less likely to move Citadel’s headquarters to New York City in the wake of Amazon.com’s decision to abandon plans to expand into Queens.
“Amazon opting out of New York is heartbreaking,” Griffin said, noting that he had been contemplating shifting his main office from Chicago and making New York his primary home when he spent a quarter billion dollars for a modest pied-a-terre near central park.
Griffin's purchase came two years after Citadel signed a lease to become the anchor tenant in a skyscraper at 425 Park Avenue (which will be completed in 2020), eight-tenths of a mile from Griffin’s new apartment (vertical travel not included). Griffin reportedly bought the place because he needed somewhere to stay when in town.
However, Griffin said he has been discouraged by the political climate in the city that resulted in Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’s decision in February to reverse plans to make Long Island City the retail giant new hub.
“The Amazon event has been a huge backtrack in our internal planning,” Griffin told Bloomberg after the broadcast interview. “The current climate in New York has dramatically reduced our interest in moving our headquarters here. Successful firms develop talent. That creates success within those firms and then some people leave to start other businesses or drive other success stories. That’s why Silicon Valley is so remarkable.”
Griffin said Amazon’s decision was “a loss for everybody.”
There may be another reason why Griffin may be having a case of record buyer's remorse: In the wake of his splashy apartment purchase, New York lawmakers promptly floated the idea of levying a tax on non-resident owners of luxury units to help finance $40 billion in upgrades to the regional transit system. The so-called “pied-à-terre tax” could raise as much as $9 billion, according to Robert Mujica, the budget director for Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Is is unclear how much of a discount Griffin would have to offer to a prospective buyer it he wishes to engage in some "high frequency" flipping of his 220 Central Park South apartment.
Separately, in his interview for “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg TV, Griffin said his outlook for the U.S. economy is bright and that the nation is seeing “real wage growth we haven’t seen in a decade.” Echoing views he made in an investor letter in February, he said Italy is headed for “a debt dynamic that’s unsustainable.” Regarding Brexit, the single biggest issue gripping the U.K. is indecision, he said. “Until they pick a path, it deters capital investment,” he said. “Politicians don’t appreciate when they create uncertainty it kills the willingness to invest.”
Watch the full interview below.