Billionaire Kenneth Griffin’s financial empire expanded its holdings in gun and ammunition stocks this spring, newly-filed records show, while he and his favored GOP gubernatorial candidate, Richard Irvin, hammered Gov. JB Pritzker for rampant violent crime.
Griffin’s $51 billion hedge fund, Citadel, and its market-making cousin, Citadel Securities, increased the value of their gun and ammunition manufacturing holdings by 62% during the first quarter of this year compared to the final three months of 2021, a company filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission shows.
All told, Citadel’s gun and ammunition holdings were worth more than $139 million as of March 31, up from $86 million three months earlier, the records showed.
The latest company disclosure ignited renewed sniping between Pritzker and Griffin, with a campaign aide to the first-term Democratic governor saying the investment tycoon’s portfolio demonstrates he is “unserious” about confronting root causes of crime in the city and that he, in fact, has “doubled down” in the sector.
Last February, WBEZ reported how gun manufacturers in which Citadel invested produced one in four recovered firearms from Chicago homicides during the past five years.
Citadel maintained that it was compelled to hold shares in those gun companies because of its role as a market maker, but Griffin and the company faced criticism from some anti-violence activists because of his stridency in blaming Pritzker personally for rising crime in Chicago.
The latest filing shows that Citadel’s holdings in two of the nation’s largest gun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. and Sturm, Ruger and Co. Inc., dropped during the first quarter of this year, but Citadel and Citadel Securities still held stock in the two firms valued at nearly $23 million combined.
Citadel’s new filing showed a more than four-fold increase in holdings in the ammunition maker, Olin Corp, and a more than tripling of holdings for another ammunition manufacturer, Vista Outdoor.
According to the filing, Citadel and Citadel Securities’ stakes in those two companies along with one other ammunition manufacturer, Ammo Inc., were valued at a nearly combined $116.6 million as of March 31. At the end of 2021, the value of Citadel and Citadel Securities’ shares in the ammunition companies was $51.2 million.
A Griffin spokesman said Citadel’s continued involvement in gun and ammunition equities is reflective of its role as a market maker that helps people “buy or sell stock in companies they want to invest in to achieve their financial goals — whether to buy a home, fund their children’s education or save for retirement.”
Griffin, in a statement, had this to say:
“There’s an old adage, ‘Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty while the pig likes it.’ When great companies like Boeing decide to leave our state, it should be a wake-up call that policies not politics matter,” the statement read. “The governor should focus on making our streets safer, improving our schools, and creating more jobs in Illinois.”
The spokesman, Zia Ahmed, also stuck by Griffin’s insistence that Pritzker’s policies on criminal justice are the cause of the region’s continuing violent crime surge. Last fall, Griffin labeled Pritzker’s stance on crime a “disgrace.”
“The violence destroying Chicago is the result of a failure to prosecute criminals, a lack of support for police and progressive left legislation that prioritizes criminals ahead of law-abiding citizens – policies perpetuated by the governor,” Ahmed said.
Last week, Griffin contributed $25 million to launch two academies at the University of Chicago to underwrite six months of training for police leaders in Chicago and elsewhere and to those running violence interruption groups. In 2018, Griffin donated $10 million to the university’s Crime Lab.
Griffin has been the primary financier of Irvin’s gubernatorial campaign. Far and away, on the strength of Griffin’s $45 million in contributions so far, Irvin is the fundraising frontrunner in the six-way Republican primary for governor. The election is June 28th.
Told of Citadel’s latest filing with the SEC, a Pritzker campaign aide belittled Griffin’s commitment toward fighting crime.
“Ken Griffin is entirely unserious about making our state safer and this massive increase in investments is just further proof,” Pritzker spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said. “One out of every four guns recovered from city homicides in the past five years came off the assembly lines of companies in which Griffin’s Citadel held shares––and when faced with that information Griffin doubled down.
“Just like his hand-picked gubernatorial candidate, Richard Irvin, Griffin will say anything to save face in public, but Illinoisans can see right through their tired act and know where their loyalties lie,” she said.
Asked about the new Citadel disclosures, Irvin’s campaign did not take issue with the firms’ holdings and, like Griffin, blamed Pritzker for the spike in crime.
“Mayor Irvin is a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, owns two licensed firearms and believes Mr. Griffin, like everyone else in this country, is free to invest in whatever industry he chooses,” Irvin campaign spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said. “Everyone agrees the spike in violent crime is directly related to the radical anti-police, pro-criminal policies pushed by JB Pritzker and Kim Foxx.
“To get violent crime under control, throw Pritzker out of office, repeal his radical pro-criminal policies, empower the police to do their jobs and pass a constitutional amendment to allow voters to recall pro-criminal prosecutors like Kim Foxx,” she said.
Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.