Citadel celebrates banner year at Disney while Wall Street nurses losses By Reuters

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Citadel celebrates banner year at Disney while Wall Street nurses losses

Citadel celebrates banner year at Disney while Wall Street nurses losses By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO, Citadel, speaks during the Milken Institute’s 22nd annual Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake//File Photo/File Photo

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

NEW YORK (Reuters) – For much of Wall Street, trading this year has been akin to riding a wild roller coaster. For thousands of employees of Citadel and Citadel Securities, the hedge fund and trading business founded by billionaire investor Ken Griffin, the first weekend of December was spent riding actual roller coasters.

Griffin paid out of his own deep pockets for about 10,000 staff and their families to converge on Walt Disney (NYSE:) World in Florida for three days of celebrations in the Magic Kingdom and other theme parks, according to Citadel spokesman Zia Ahmed.

Griffin picked up the tab for airfare from cities including New York, Houston, Paris and Zurich and paid for hotels, park tickets and meals — from lamb chops to sushi and paella — to applaud blockbuster returns and major anniversaries.

This year is shaping up to be a record for Citadel and Citadel Securities, the spokesman confirmed.

Coldplay, the British rock band that Griffin is especially fond of, played at a concert on Saturday alongside singer Carly Rae Jepsen and Diplo, a DJ.

News of the celebration was first reported by Insider.

BIG RETURNS

The hedge fund firm, which manages $59 billion in assets, told investors its flagship Wellington fund returned roughly 32% through the end of November, a dramatic contrast to much of Wall Street and the economy at large.

The Citadel Global Fixed Income Fund is up 28.1% for the year, while Citadel Tactical Trading is up 22.4% and Citadel Equities Fund is up 17.8%, an investor said.

The average hedge fund has lost 4% and the benchmark U.S. stock index has plunged 16% this year as the Federal Reserve wrestles with high inflation and a potential recession.

Across Wall Street, firms are preparing for leaner times by cutting jobs and bonuses. Many Americans are struggling with rising prices for food, gasoline and rents. After the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street firms that were criticized for their excesses have sometimes shied away from lavish gatherings or held them in private.

For the 54-year-old Griffin, whose personal net worth is estimated at $32 billion, the festivities marked the 20th anniversary of Citadel Securities and the 32nd anniversary of the hedge fund, whose original party plans in 2020 were scuttled by the pandemic. Staff from Asia will have a separate celebration next year, the spokesman said.

‘INCREDIBLE FUTURE’ AHEAD

“We have built the most extraordinary team not only in our history — but also in the history of finance,” Griffin told the crowd, according to the spokesman. “We have an incredible future ahead of us – and I look forward to the chapters yet to be written.”

Citadel has long boasted eye-popping investment returns, but 2022’s gains are especially noteworthy because they coincide with double-digit losses at other big hedge funds, including Tiger Global Management.

Citadel’s returns also topped those of rivals, like DE Shaw’s Composite Fund, which is up 22.5% for the year, and Millennium International, which is up 10.2%. Representatives for those firms did not comment.

Over the last five years, Citadel’s Wellington fund returned 172.2%, according to an investor, beating the S&P 500’s 68.4% return and the average 25% return posted by hedge funds.

Florida, the state where Griffin was born, has become critically important to his business. He announced plans to relocate the headquarters of the hedge fund and trading firm to Miami from Chicago, Illinois after long criticizing the latter city’s taxes and crime rates.

During the pandemic, Griffin had already moved some operations to Florida by renting out the luxurious Four Seasons hotel in Palm Beach for business continuity to ensure that a group of traders were in their own bubble to process trades and provide liquidity to retail and institutional clients.

Griffin has donated millions to the arts, educational and medical causes. Closer to home, the investor wanted to treat employees — and their 2,500 children — to a weekend with Mickey Mouse as a “thank you” for turning Citadel into a Wall Street powerhouse.

On Saturday, Coldplay played a string of rock hits, including an anthem that captured the scene.

“This could be para-para-paradise,” the band sang.


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