Billionaire Ken Griffin, former DeSantis donor, sits out GOP presidential primary

Ken Griffin, Citadel

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Billionaire and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, a major Republican donor, says he is sitting on the sidelines of the GOP presidential primary and not supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who he backed in 2022.

Griffin is not impressed with what he’s seeing from the alternatives to frontrunner Donald Trump and has yet to decide who he plans to help, he said in an interview with CNBC’s Sara Eisen set to air Monday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

“So we’re– we’re now through the first debate. And I’ll tell you what, I’m still on the sidelines as to who to support in this election cycle. I’m still on the sidelines,” Griffin said. “Look, if I had my dream, we’d have a great Republican candidate in the primary who was younger, of a different generation, with a different tone for America. And we’d have a younger person on the Democratic side in the primary who would have his message for our country. And we’d have a debate around ideas and principles and policies to make this a great nation. We’re not having that dialogue right now.”

The sidelining of Griffin, who has an estimated net worth of $35 billion, signals that one of the party’s biggest contributors will not be immediately providing his extensive financial resources to boost any of the candidates opposing Trump. Griffin gave over $100 million during the 2022 midterms to a mix of a state and federal candidates, with almost all of it going toward Republicans.

The former president leads the GOP primary field by at least 50 percentage points, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.

“As the presidential campaigns unfold, I am assessing how the policies of each candidate will address the challenges facing our country,” Griffin said later in a statement to CNBC. I care deeply about individual rights and freedom, economic policies that encourage prosperity and upward mobility, all children having access to a high-quality education, ensuring our communities are safe, and a strong national defense.

As for DeSantis, Griffin doesn’t understand the strategy of the Florida governor’s presidential campaign. The Citadel CEO backed DeSantis during his 2022 reelection campaign and said last year, before the Florida governor launched a run for the White House, that “our country would be well-served by him as president.”

“I don’t know his strategy,” Griffin said, referring to DeSantis’ 2024 campaign. “It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.” The latest Quinnipiac poll shows DeSantis with 12% of support versus Trump’s 62% in the Republican primary.

“First-term governor — just a phenomenal job,” Griffin added. “But that hasn’t been how this last few months has played out.”

Griffin told CNBC that one of his issues with DeSantis as governor is his ongoing fight with Disney. “The ongoing battle with Disney I think is pointless. In fact, it doesn’t reflect well on the ethos of Florida,” Griffin said.

The battle between DeSantis and Disney started last year, when the company said they were opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in public school.

After Disney came out against the bill, DeSantis and his allies targeted the special tax district that had allowed Disney to effectively self-govern its Orlando-area theme parks for decades. Disney and DeSantis are now in the midst of a lawsuit.

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