Hedge fund CEO’s employee gift of three days at Disney World stirs controversy

Citadel CEO Ken Griffin has stoked controversy after paying for about 10,000 staff members and their families to visit Disney World for three days as firms across Wall Street are cutting jobs and bonuses.

Citadel spokesperson Zia Ahmed said Mr Griffin paid out of his own deep pockets for about 10,000 staff and their families to converge on Walt Disney World in Florida for three days of celebrations in the Magic Kingdom and other theme parks.

He added that the billionaire picked up several tabs for employees in honour of the company’s blockbuster returns and for the celebration of its big anniversaries.

These tabs ranged from airfares from New York, Houston, Paris, Zurich and other cities to paying for hotels, park tickets and meals like lamb chops, sushi and paella.

Employees were also treated to a massive concert by Coldplay, the British band Mr Griffin is especially fond of, on Saturday alongside singer Carly Rae Jepsen and DJ Diplo.

The celebration was first reported by Insider and comes as firms across Wall Street prepare for leaner times by cutting back as inflation rises.

Mr Ahmed, however, said this year had shaped up to a record for Citadel and Citadel Securities.

The hedge fund firm, which manages $59bn in assets, told investors its flagship Wellington fund returned roughly 32 per cent through the end of November, a dramatic contrast to other Wall Street firms and the economy at large, reported Reuters.

The celebrations marked the 20th anniversary of Citadel Securities and the 32nd anniversary of the hedge fund.

Some celebrations were planned for 2020, but had to be postponed after the onset of the Covid pandemic.

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“We have built the most extraordinary team not only in our history — but also in the history of finance,” Mr Griffin told his employees at one of the festivities, the spokesperson said.

“We have an incredible future ahead of us – and I look forward to the chapters yet to be written.”

Some Twitter users, however, criticised the move and accused the company of using “stolen funds” to pay for the celebrations.

One user shared screenshots likening Citadel’s spending to Enron.

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“New headline: Retail investor’s stolen funds pay for [Citadel] criminals to go to Disney World,” wrote one user.

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“Happy to see that the money stolen from synthetics and the dark pools the average retail investors is going to good use,” wrote another.

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Additional reporting by agencies