The wealthiest person in Illinois said the state's governor refused to deploy the National Guard in Chicago during civil unrest in the summer of 2020 because of the optics doing so would create, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin said he implored Gov. J.B. Pritzker, D-Ill., to declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard as more than 2,100 businesses across Chicago were damaged following the killing of George Floyd.
"I told him to deploy the National Guard and he goes, 'It won’t look good for there to be men and women on Michigan Avenue with assault weapons,'" Griffin told the Economic Club of Chicago on Monday, the Tribune reported.
"If that saves the life of a child, I don't care. And he doesn’t care."
Griffin told his audience that he had grave doubts about Chicago's future, and probably will move his investment firm’s headquarters from the city if it doesn’t "change course," the Tribune reported.
He cited increased crime and violence as one of several reasons his firm, which has $38 billion in assets under management, could bolt.
"It's becoming ever more difficult to have this as our global headquarters, a city which has so much violence," Griffin said, the Tribune reported. "Chicago is like Afghanistan on a good day. And that’s a problem.
"There is nowhere where you can feel safe today, walking home at 9:30 at night, and you worry about your kids going to and from school. That’s no way for our city to exist. And it’s really hard to recruit people to Chicago, when they read the headlines."
Griffin said his firm's New York office now is the "central point" with more than a thousand employees despite Chicago being home to corporate headquarters.
The 52-year-old Griffin challenged city and state leaders over issues including "broken" public schools, high taxes, and crime during his hour-long talk.
A Pritzker spokeswoman denied Griffin’s account of his 2020 conversation with the governor.
"Ken Griffin is a liar," Emily Bittner, a Pritzker spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement to the Tribune. "Gov. Pritzker is dedicated to the safety of this city and state, deployed the National Guard during the social unrest in the summer of 2020 and is making landmark investments in crime prevention."
Griffin founded Citadel in 1990 and built it into one of the largest hedge funds in the world. He's reportedly worth $16 billion.
He discussed several issues during his talk to Economic Club members both in attendance and online.
Griffin said former President Donald Trump’s economic policies were "pretty damn good" for America, but he never financially supported Trump’s campaign because of the former president's "incredibly offensive attacks on the Hispanic community."
He does not support another Trump run for office.
"I think it's time for America to move on," Griffin said. "The four years under President Donald Trump were so pointlessly divisive, it was not constructive for our country."
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