Home » This Chicago Museum Just Got A Ken Griffin Rebrand, 2 Years After He Fled The State

This Chicago Museum Just Got A Ken Griffin Rebrand, 2 Years After He Fled The State

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Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is now the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry in recognition of a $125 million gift from the billionaire and former wealthiest resident of Illinois.

“The donation, which was previously announced in October 2019 and is the largest in the museum’s history, will ensure that generations of visitors will continue to discover the wonders and joys of scientific exploration at one of the world’s premier science museums,” said the museum in a statement.

Griffin, the world’s 41st richest person, relocated Citadel, his hedge fund, and Citadel Securities, his trading firm, from Chicago to Miami two years ago, citing crime and comparing the Windy City to “Afghanistan on a good day.”

Last year, Griffin launched Griffin Catalyst, a philanthropic initiative that “encapsulates Griffin’s approach to civic engagement” and focuses on six areas: education, science and medicine, upward mobility, freedom and democracy, enterprise and innovation, and communities.

“[This gift] allows us to dig our heels in deeper to support science education in local schools and neighborhoods in new, more profound ways; and it enables us to carry out our mission to inspire the inventive genius in all of us,” said Dr. Chevy Humphrey, President and CEO of the Griffin MSI.

It’s routine for a donor’s name to be emblazoned on a museum (or university building) on the heels of an enormous donation. Just look to Harvard, where new Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was renamed following a $300 million donation from the billionaire.

Then again, nothing lasts forever. That’s true even in Pittsburgh, a town built by steel industry, where the industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s name is everywhere—on museums, libraries, a university, a main thoroughfare, and more. In January, the Carnegie Science Center announced it would become the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Science Center in honor of a $65 million to one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. The Kamin’s gift was the largest monetary gift since the founding of Carnegie Museums in 1895.

In 2022, the Smithsonian Institution announced that Jeff Bezos, then the world’s third richest person (today he’s No. 2), would get his on a new Smithsonian learning center after donating $200 million to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Bezos’ donor agreement stipulated that his name would remain on the building for 50 years. Notably, the contract did not include a morals clause, which would have given the Smithsonian the right to remove the billionaire’s name due to scandal in the same way that, say, the Metropolitan Museum nixed the Sackler name from galleries due to controversy surrounding the family’s role in the opioid epidemic.

Of course, not every philanthropist needs name recognition. The Museum of Science and Industry’s original benefactor was Julius Rosenwald, then president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, who did not want his name on the museum.

And renaming an institution is one thing, making it stick is another. Consider how, for much of the 20th century, the Sears name loomed large in Chicago, literally gracing the city’s tallest skyscraper. Yet in 2009, when the London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings leased more than 140,000 square feet of office space in the building, it was enough to secure a new name: Willis Tower. The contract included naming rights for 15 years, meaning that it’s possible that the tower’s name could change this year.

Whatever happens, it’s worth noting that Chicagoans never stopped calling it Sears Tower.

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