Kenneth Griffin: Self-Made Man

One idea Americans love is the idea of the self-made man. Someone who starts with very little, and through brain power, hard work and tenacity accomplishes something worthwhile. Countless examples of self-made men exist in modern American history. One of the most iconic is the image of a young Abraham Lincoln reading by firelight in a simple log cabin, and years later becoming an important, and historic president. Other examples include people like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett. Admittedly some of these men did not start life devoid of advantage, but the one trait they all had in common is the desire and drive to shape their own destiny. Kenneth Griffin, although not as well known as the previous examples, possessed the same type of desire and drive, and is another perfect example of the quintessential self-made man.

Griffin founded an investment firm named Citadel in 1990, and within a decade had grown its investment capital from about $5 million to $1 billion. After a little over twenty years with Griffin at the helm as CEO the firm now manages a hedge fund worth approximately $25 billion. Managing this amount of investment capital makes Citadel one of the world’s most important and largest investment firms. Griffin’s personal wealth is estimated to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 billion. In the world of investment, Kenneth Griffin is thought of by his peers, as legendary. How does one go from $5 million to $25 billion, and reach legendary status in a quarter of a century?

Griffin began his financial career by investing in stocks during his first year of college. During his second year he started a hedge fund with capital supplied by friends and family. He went on to develop specific tactics and strategies that helped him remain profitable while others were not. Particularly harmful to most investment firms at the time was the 1987 stock market crash. Griffin came out ahead of the game and was able to start up a second hedge fund. It is important to remember, all this action took place while Griffin was still attending Harvard. After graduating in 1989 an opportunity quickly became available. The founder of another investment fund provided Griffin with $1 million to manage, and as usual, Kenneth Griffin was wildly successful. His strategy returned a large percentage on the initial investment. That brings the story to 1990 when Citadel was founded, and thus began the journey that eventually delivered Kenneth Griffin into the realm of financial legend, and one of America’s self-made men.

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