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Ken Griffin, CEO of hedge fund Citadel, says his life was shaped by a woman who died tragically

Ken Griffin, CEO of hedge fund Citadel, may be a very successful hedge fund manager with a reputation for running a tight ship, but he is also a human being who likes to chat about his friends and who's been influenced by at least two significant women in his life.

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One of those women was Griffin's grandmother, Genevieve Huebsch Gratz, who died in 2010 aged 98. Gratz, whose husband died nearly 50 years earlier, took on the running of the family oil company and the family farm (which initially had no running water) herself. When "beautifully dressed" men arrived to persuade Gratz to sell the farm shortly after her husband's death, Gratz said she told them: "Not one of you knows an oil can from a soup can. I will keep the business. If I fail, I will solve my own problems.'" 

Gratz gave Griffin the seed money to start trading while at Harvard and was what Griffin has described as a fount of “unsolicited advice” and wise adages, including "Make sure you pay your taxes on time."She also recited an Irish poem that included the line,"Take time to share. Life is too short to be selfish." Griffin's grandmother financed Griffin's education, prompting him to make a $150m financial aid gift to Harvard in 2014 to pay for other students with less beneficent relatives.  

While Gratz's influence on Griffin is well-documented, less well-known is the effect of another woman outside of Griffin's family. Speaking last week at the Futures Industry Association's annual gathering, Griffin said his ninth grade teacher, Kathy Lindgren, transformed his life.

Lindgren died aged 45 following a car accident in 1989. "She changed my life," said Griffin this week. "I will always have a very big space in my heart for her and her family." 

One of the things that Lindgren imparted to Griffin was the importance of qualitative as well as quantitative skills. She reportedly told him: "Ken, you're pretty good at math, but you also need to learn how to write." 

Speaking at the London School of Economics last October, Griffin said the ability to communicate is critical and often overlooked. "One thing that always matters to us at Citadel is communication skills," he told students. "Our colleagues are almost universally good communicators. We copied that from Goldman Sachs. If you look back 15 years, the people at Goldman Sachs were always more poised and articulate, and better able to express concepts.” 

Griffin has set up a scholarship fund at Boca Raton High School for Lindgren.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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