Ken Griffin’s $63 million Chicago condo selloff is not going well

Jul 26, 2023
9 months ago
Credit: From left: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, Jameson Sotheby's International Realty, Premier Relocation

A year ago this week, Ken Griffin put a portfolio of four upper-end Gold Coast condos on the market, each priced at more than $10 million, as he shifted his business and family from Chicago to Florida. Griffin later added a fifth condo to the offerings.

It hasn’t gone well.

The asking prices for the five condos, in three high-rises all within a few blocks of one another, add up to nearly $63.18 million. So far, Griffin, head of the Citadel financial empire, has sold two for a total of about $21.43 million.

There’s still at least $42 million worth of Griffin’s condo inventory left to sell, and that’s only for the units he has put up for sale. Griffin has at least two more condos, the upper floors at No. 9 Walton, that haven’t yet appeared on the market.

The numbers look big to most eyes. But to Griffin, who according to Bloomberg is worth $37 billion, it may look more like a game of penny ante.

Through Zia Ahmed, a spokesperson for Citadel, Griffin declined to comment. Not responding to requests for comment were two listing agents who are representing Griffin’s condos, Susan Miner of Premier Relocation and Nancy Tassone of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty.

Griffin is certainly not the only seller with top-dollar downtown condos taking a while to sell. At One Bennett Park, a 65th-floor penthouse has been for sale by the tower’s developer since August 2019 at just under $15.2 million.

Agents who work the upper end of the downtown condo market say Griffin’s decision to put a passel of upper-end condos on the market sent a clear message to his fellow people of means, whether intentionally or not.

“It gave a signal that he is over Chicago and doesn’t have any confidence in Chicago,” says Brian Loomis, the Coldwell Banker agent who’s representing a condo in the Palmolive Building priced at $10 million. It’s down from a $12 million asking price in 2021.

Chezi Rafaeli, a Coldwell Banker agent, concurs. “Ken Griffin basically made a statement to the wealthy community in Chicago,” he says. Rafaeli represented both buyer and seller in the $20 million sale of the penthouse at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in March 2022.

A hint that Griffin wasn’t entirely gung-ho on the condo market is that he listed nearly every property at less than he paid for it, acknowledging upfront that they were unprofitable investments.

By dropping several condos on the market at once, Rafaeli says: “Griffin basically said, ‘I’m done with Chicago. I’ve given so much to Chicago and I’m done.’ ”

During his tenure here, Griffin gave more than $600 million to the city’s museums, hospitals, universities and lakefront path, among others. He also put more than $100 million into opposing Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, funding both a Republican candidate who ran against Pritzker and the effort to stop Pritzker’s proposed graduated state income tax.

After announcing his move to Florida in June 2022, Griffin had reason to believe unloading his condo holdings would go faster than it has. In the first few months of 2022, two condos had sold for more than any of his asking prices: the Trump penthouse at $20 million and a full floor at No. 9 Walton, immediately below his four-story set at the top of that building, went for $17.4 million. There was also an $11.25 million condo sale the previous year.

In the time since Griffin listed his condos, Rafaeli says, the attitude of affluent people who could buy them has shifted.

“People don’t feel safe, and they don’t know what the new mayor’s policies will do to fix it,” he says. “Why would they invest this money when everything is unpredictable now?”

The number of condos Griffin put up for sale didn’t water down the market with excess inventory, however, Loomis contends. “There’s such a small buyer pool at that level to begin with,” he says. “Putting a couple more condos on doesn’t really depress the inventory.”

The larger problem, Loomis says, is that “these days, everybody seems to want brand-new. They don’t want to do any work, just move in.” That preference, which agents at all levels of the price ladder have mentioned, may hurt Griffin in two ways, Loomis says.

Some of the billionaire’s offerings are unfinished floors at No. 9 Walton, “where you have a lot of work to do before you move in,” he says, and one is a Park Tower condo Griffin bought more than two decades ago. Listing photos show dark floors, dark countertops and dark wood trim, all of which are long out of style.

Here's a scorecard on Griffin’s Chicago condo portfolio:

At the Park Tower, 800 N. Michigan Ave.

66th floor
Purchased in 2012: $15 million
Listed for sale in July 2022: $13.25 million
Sold in January 2023: $11.2 million
Loss: $3.8 million

67th floor
Purchased in 2000: $6.9 million
Listed for sale in July 2022: $15 million
It has not yet sold.

At the Waldorf Astoria, 11 E. Walton St.

37th floor
Purchased in 2014: $13.3 million
Listed for sale in July 2022: $11.5 million
Sold in October 2022: $10.225 million
Loss: $3.075 million

At No. 9 Walton, 9 W. Walton St (All purchases were November 2017)

35th floor
Purchased: $12.5 million
Listed for sale in July 2022: $14 million
The listing for this condo went inactive several months ago. Cook County records indicate it has not been sold.

36th floor
Purchased: $12.14 million
Unfinished space
Listed for sale in June 2023: $12 million

37th floor
Purchased: $12.65 million
Unfinished space
Not yet known to be on the market

38th floor
Purchased: $21.17 million
Unfinished space
Not yet known to be on the market

From Crain's Chicago Business, a sibling publication of Crain Currency