Ken Griffin buys US constitution after bidding war with crypto traders

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Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel, was revealed on Friday as the buyer of a rare first printing of the US constitution, beating out an impromptu collective of cryptocurrency traders with a $43.2m payment.

The document was the subject of a nearly eight-minute auction on Thursday at Sotheby’s in New York, where Griffin squared off with more than 17,000 cryptocurrency traders who had banded together in an attempt to fund a crowdsourced purchase.

The winning price represented a record for a manuscript or book sold at auction, according to Sotheby’s. It is one of 11 known copies of the 234-year-old document and the only one that is privately owned.

“The US constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” Griffin said.

Griffin said he would loan the constitution to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which was built in 2011 by Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune. The free museum’s location in Bentonville, Arkansas, is also the headquarters of the US retailer.

“I intend to ensure that this copy of our constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces,” he said.

Griffin paid more than double the presale estimate of $15m to $20m for the constitution, beating out a group called “ConstitutionDAO”, the cryptocurrency collective that organised online to bid for the document. The campaign, launched on November 11, took in a median cryptocurrency donation of $206 from members, according to a message after the loss.

“We memed this into reality. We made history,” the collective wrote on Twitter after the auction.

Citadel, based in Chicago, is one of the world’s biggest hedge funds with about $34bn in assets under management. Griffin also founded the largest equities market maker in the US, known as Citadel Securities.

Citadel Securities’ central role in US equities markets put it into the spotlight during frenzied trading in the shares of GameStop earlier this year. Griffin was called to testify before Congress on the upheaval.

Griffin, whose personal fortune Forbes estimated to be around $21bn, has become an avid collector of high-profile artworks. He previously purchased a Jean-Michel Basquiat for $100m last year and spent a record-setting $300m on a Willem de Kooning in 2015.

He is also outspoken in American politics, and a top donor to Republican candidates.

On a panel earlier this month, Griffin announced his intention to go “all in” to support a candidate who could defeat the current Democratic governor of his home state of Illinois, fellow billionaire JB Pritzker, in 2022.