Billionaire bought copy of US Constitution to lend to museum

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Auctioneers revealed Friday the identity of the buyer of an extremely rare original copy of the US Constitution for a record $43 million -- a billionaire who will loan it to a museum to maximize the document’s viewing.

Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel in Chicago, set a world record for a historical document at auction Thursday when he purchased the 1787 text, according to Sotheby’s auction house, which staged the sale.

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The 53-year-old billionaire’s personal fortune is estimated at nearly $21 billion, according to Forbes, making him the 47th richest American. Citadel, meanwhile, manages some $40 billion in assets, according to the magazine.

Griffin outbid a group of some 17,000 crypto currency investors, dubbed Constitution DAO, who had raised $40 million to try to buy the document, vowing to exhibit it in the public digital domain.

Griffin will lend his copy of the Constitution for free to the Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, which will display it without charging visitors, Sotheby’s said.

“The US Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” Griffin wrote in a statement released by the auction house.

He added that “this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view.”

Crystal Bridges board chairwoman Olivia Walton said that the museum was “honored to exhibit one of the most important documents in our nation’s history.”

Sotheby’s said the item was one of only 13 known surviving copies of the US charter, signed on September 17, 1787 at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall by America’s founding fathers including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison.

The copy was probably part of a print run of 500 the day before the signing, and likely came off the presses on the evening of September 16, 1787.

The original copy sold Thursday -- one of just two still in private hands, in this case the US collector Dorothy Tapper Goldman -- was estimated last September at between $15 million and $20 million.

In the end it went for more than twice that sum, and in just eight minutes as bidders in the New York auction room but also on the phone from around the globe upped their offers.

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