The hedge fund Citadel and the trading firm Citadel Securities, both run by the billionaire Ken Griffin, are moving their offices to Miami after more than three decades in Chicago, according to a memo to employees that was obtained by The New York Times on Thursday.
The move follows elevated tensions between Mr. Griffin and Gov. JB Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat, over taxes and the city’s crime rate. (Florida is one of the few states that don’t have a state income tax.) And it comes as the rise of remote work during the coronavirus pandemic has enabled companies to more freely move their offices in search of lower taxes, a more affordable work force or other potential perks. In recent months, Caterpillar said it was moving its office from Illinois to Texas, and Boeing has said it is moving from Illinois to Virginia. Kellogg, on the other hand, said this week that it was moving its corporate headquarters from Battle Creek, Mich., to Chicago.
“The firms are having difficulty recruiting top talent from across the world to Chicago given the rising and senseless violence in the city,” said Zia Ahmed, a Citadel spokesman. “Talent wants to live in cities where they feel safe.”
While not a direct comparison, Miami Dade County reported 30 homicide offenses this year through May, down from 48 over the same period last year.
Mr. Griffin has been threatening to move Citadel’s headquarters for years, citing concerns over local crime. At a recent DealBook conference, he recounted the story of a Citadel partner’s being accosted outside his home with a gun to his head. He said that when he brought up the issue to Governor Pritzker, “he took the moment to call me a liar.”
“I’m going to make sure that if he runs again, that I am all in to support the candidate who will beat him. He doesn’t deserve to be the governor of our state,” Mr. Griffin said.
He said that whether he kept Citadel in Chicago “comes down to whether or not we’re willing to embrace the policies in Chicago that we need for people to be safe and secure.”
A spokeswoman for Governor Pritzker, Emily Bittner, pointed to Kellogg’s announcement and said the administration supported “emerging industries that are already creating good jobs and investing billions in Illinois, like data centers, electric vehicles and quantum computing.”
“We continue to lead the nation in corporate relocations and had a record number of business start-ups in the past year,” Ms Bittner said.
A spokesman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said in a statement, “Citadel leadership has been signaling for some time an enhanced presence in Florida, and while this announcement is surprising, it is still disappointing.” He added, “We thank the Citadel team for their contributions to our city and their many philanthropic commitments.”
Mr. Ahmed, the Citadel spokesman, said, “In Chicago alone, Ken has donated more than $600 million to educational, cultural, medical and civic organizations.”
Mr. Griffin gave roughly $21.5 million through March to groups supporting the election of Republican candidates around the country during the 2022 election cycle, according to Open Secrets. He is among the biggest supporters of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, according to Open Secrets.
Mr. Griffin founded Citadel in Chicago in 1990 and, alongside his partners, Citadel Securities in 2002. Combined, the two firms employ more than 1,000 people in Illinois. Globally, they employ 4,000 professionals across 17 offices.
Citadel told employees that the firm’s new headquarters would be in Brickell, Miami’s financial district, and that the move was expected to take several years. Some employees of Citadel Securities have already begun to work out of temporary offices in the city, and employees of Citadel will soon follow.
Mr. Griffin, who was born in Daytona Beach, Fla., and grew up in Boca Raton, Fla., will move to Miami as well.
In the memo to employees, he recalled the welcome he got in Chicago when he started his firm. “I still remember the incredible civic pride and engagement when I arrived more than 30 years ago — and the outreach by business and political leaders who wanted us to succeed and be a part of the fabric of Chicago’s community,” he wrote.
The announcement was celebrated by Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, who offered Mr. Griffin a “warm Miami welcome.” Mr. Suarez has courted big business since his election in November 2017, and many companies have taken advantage of Florida’s lack of state and local income taxes. Among those that have moved offices there are the hedge fund Elliott Management and the private equity firm Blackstone.