Ken Griffin and Citadel put a Damper on E-Trade’s Best Close of the Year

Michael Teague  |

Ken Griffin, billionaire hedge fund manager and founder of Citadel LLC, just put the brakes on E-Trade Financial Corp.'s (ETFC) 52-week high ($11.82 per share close Wednesday) with the announcement that he would be selling the entirety of his 9.6 percent stake in the company, or about 27.4 million shares.

The news sent shares of E-Trade plummeting over 7 percent on Thursday to $10.99.

The relationship between E-Trade and Griffin began back in late 2007, when Citadel pumped $2.6 billion into the company. Much of this was to cover a batch of bad mortgages and loans that the company had taken on prior to the tanking of the housing market and subsequent financial crisis.  Then, in 2009, Citadel once again picked up most of the tab for a $1.7 billion debt exchange.

In the time since Citadel’s initial investments, the stock has lost over 75 percent of its price, but in recent months has been performing well, gaining over 32 percent since the beginning of the year. Griffin’s retreat from E-Trade, however, began back in April 2011 when Citadel sold almost half its shares in the company, at which point he began actively pushing for a sale or a merger.

Despite Thursday’s drop on the market, the company can look forward to at least two things.  Their significant efforts to reduce a $10.3 billion loan portfolio and cut costs by $100 million are no small order for a company with so much less cash than others who have had to evacuate bad assets after the housing crisis like J.P Morgan (JPM) and Bank of America (BAC).  The $10.3 billion figure is already down from $32.3 billion over 5 years ago, and the company expects to shed $450 per quarter through the rest of the year.

The other thing to which E-Trade can look forward is not having the pressure of Ken Griffin breathing down their necks.  His term on the company’s board of directors is over this spring, and he leaves the company having made $800 million on his investment.

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