Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the collapsed crypto exchange FTX, has many regrets. But foremost among them is the one that may have directly led to the downfall of his company.
While advocating for favorable crypto regulation in Washington, DC, Bankman-Fried criticized Changpeng Zhao, CEO of rival Binance, at private meetings. Word of the whispering campaign got back to Zhao, which eventually started a rush of FTX customers to withdraw their deposits with tweet that he would sell off his huge holdings in that company’s cryptocurrency, FTT.
The criticism “wasn’t good strategy on my part,” said Mr. Bankman-Fried said in an interview with The New York Times published on Monday, just days after FTX declared bankruptcy. “I was quite frustrated by a lot of what I saw happening, but I should have understood that it wasn’t a good decision for me to express that.”
Now Bankman-Fried, often referred to by crypto industry insiders by its initials, SBF, is at the center of a firestorm over the explosion. Authorities in the Bahamas, where his company is based, and in the United States are investigating what happened to FTX, which was valued at $32 billion earlier this year, and whether criminal charges are warranted.
The company’s spectacular dissolution also set off major aftershocks in the crypto industry, which was already facing turbulence from the emerging economy. As soon as Bankman-Fried’s trading troubles became public, almost every cryptocurrency immediately crashed in value.
At one point last week, Zhao, after sparking a run on FTX, offered to save the company by buying it. But after examining his books, he withdrew the offer, saying he was experiencing serious financial problems.
Using the Signal chat app with Bankman-Fried and his representatives, Mr. Zhao simply posted a brief comment to break the news, according to two people the paper spoke to. New York Times: “Sam, I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to continue this deal. Way too many issues. CZ.”
Bankman-Fried responded to the rejection by telling employees about it in a message the company received Times: “I shouldn’t throw stones in a glass house, so I’ll hold back a bit. Except to say: they probably never intended to complete the deal.
Within days of the bankruptcy, Bankman-Fried, which lost most of its $16 billion fortune in the collapse, said it was taking it relatively well. “You’d have thought I wouldn’t sleep by now, and instead I get someone,” he said. “It could be worse.”
In addition, Bankman-Fried said he relaxes by playing the video game Storybook Brawl— albeit from an undisclosed location out of fear for his safety.
“It helps me relax a little bit,” he said. “It clears the mind.”
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