Citadel's Ken Griffin Could Sell Some Business

Billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin might be shopping a piece of his growing hedge fund business, according to a recent article in Crain’s.

The article reports that the industry was surprised by recent news of Griffin being in “talks with asset management colossus Blackstone Group about one of its funds buying a minority stake in his businesses,” adding that while the talks apparently ended without a deal being cut, “a well-capitalized firm like Blackstone could help the businesses pursue growth while also shouldering some of the risk inherent in the financial markets.”

Noting that money has flowed out of the hedge fund industry for 11 out of the last 15 quarters (data from Hedge Fund Research), the article quotes University of North Caroline finance professor Greg Brown: “It has not been a good run for any hedge funds. They haven’t grown quickly, certainly, as the private-equity complex has.”

Although Citadel, with AUM of about $32 billion, has outperformed its peers, the article cites comments from S&P Global Ratings analyst Beth Campbell, who argues that hedge funds have suffered from the market’s rising preference for lower-cost passive investments and her firm has a “negative outlook” for the sector as a whole.

Citadel’s rumored talks with Blackstone might represent Griffin’s return to a long-standing goal of expanding his firm’s balance sheet, the article suggests, adding that such a collaboration could provide the firm with a “huge new pool of investment clients or lend Citadel Securities a bigger balance sheet.”

Citadel spokesperson Zia Ahmed declined to comment on the Blackstone report, but said: “We are—of course—open to such conversations, for they are often awash in interesting ideas and concepts. As we approach the 30-year anniversary of Citadel in 2020, we are keenly focused on establishing the building blocks, both in the continuity of our business and capital, to secure the next 30 years.”