(Bloomberg) — Why did Citadel founder Ken Griffin buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution last month for $43.2 million? His son told him to.
“I was sitting at home in New York and my son calls me to say, ‘Dad, you have to buy the Constitution,’” Griffin said in an interview after a luncheon hosted by the Palm Beach Civic Association at the Florida city’s Four Seasons hotel. Griffin didn’t give his son’s specific reason for wanting his father to make the purchase.
The hedge fund billionaire bought the copy of the Constitution in a competitive Sotheby’s auction, which gained attention when a group of crypto investors under the name of ConstitutionDAO mounted a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for their bid on the document. They took in more than $40 million in less than two weeks, but lost to Griffin, whose $43.2 million bid set a record, according to the auction house.
When he was bidding on the Constitution, Griffin became overcome with the concept of winning, he said Thursday.
“I told myself, ‘I am going to own this,’” he said. “I don’t do that very often.”
Griffin was in contact with the crypto group the night of the auction, he said. After the sale was complete, Griffin reached out again and asked if they wanted to arrange a joint governance for the document, including making a decision on where it would be displayed.
The hedge fund founder also proposed allowing each of the roughly 17,000 participants in the ConstitutionDAO group the right to generate a non-fungible token tied to the copy, according to Citadel spokesman Zia Ahmed.
“Ultimately we couldn’t come to an agreement,” Griffin said.
The printing had a presale estimate of $15 million to $20 million and is one of only 13 surviving copies of the Official Edition of the Constitution, which was printed in 1787 for delegates at the Constitutional Convention and for the Continental Congress.
Griffin said he gives credit to the group of investors for raising more than $40 million. A longtime skeptic of cryptocurrencies, Griffin said the digital assets “speak to the desire to change America,” with people finding new ways to use them and make connections.
Michael Novogratz, the billionaire founder of Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd., said Thursday during the Goldman Sachs U.S. Financial Services Conference that Griffin’s bid spoiled the party.
“ConstitutionDAO might have been the coolest thing that happened all year long in crypto, because it’s the pure essence of, ‘Here we are, we are doing it for the people, buying one of the founding documents, one of 13 Constitutions, and we’re gonna give it back to the people.’ Unfortunately, Ken Griffin played the Grinch — rich billionaire coming in to kind of spoil the party, in what I would call a tone-deaf move.”
Asked for a response to Novogratz’s comments, Citadel pointed to Griffin’s plans to display the document publicly at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. He also said he would show it at other public spaces in the future.