Peruse any economic news and you’d likely find yourself reading about a guy named Sam Bankman-Fried.
For those who don’t know, he’s the man responsible for crypto’s latest cripple.
Well, we all know him as the guy who ran FTX down, but what else is there about him? Here are 10 facts about Sam Bankman-Fried, the man that Temasek believed in.
Sam Bankman-Fried, the Young Billionaire Star
At only 30 years old, he had amassed billions and was a hit in the industry. This game-changer revolutionised the playing field and redefined the importance of decentralised technologies.
In 2021, he was on the cover of The Forbes 400, in which he came in at number 32, with a net worth of US$22.5 billion at the time.
Sam Bankman-Fried’s Wealth
Bankman-Fried, at his peak, had a net worth valuation of US$26 billion. Most of it came from his 50% stake in FTX. The number, however, slowly fell and in October 2022, he had a net worth of US$10.5 billion.
On 8 November 2022, when the FTX saga started, his net worth plummeted 94% in a day to around $991.5 million, kicking him off the billionaire’s list. It was the largest one-day drop in history.
Now, he is worth close to nothing.
Bankman-Fried came from a smart family, and I mean, really smart family.
His parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, are both professors at Stanford Law School in America. His aunt Linda P. Fried is the current dean of a public health graduate school of Columbia University (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health).
Bankman-Fried has a brother, Gabriel, who is a former Wall Street Trader and the director of the non-profit organisation Guarding Against Pandemics.
As for Bankman-Fried himself, he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated with a degree in physics and a minor in mathematics. As a child, he attended Canada/USA Mathcamp, a summer program for mathematically talented high-school students.
We’ll see how he put these brains to good use soon.
In 2013, at the age of 21, he began working on Wall Street as an intern. He worked at a proprietary trading firm called Jane Street Capital trading international Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Eventually, after graduating, he returned there to work full-time.,
In September 2017, he quit his job and worked at the Centre of Effective Altruism as director of development for a month (October 2017 to November 2017).
After he quit that job, he partnered with Tara Mac Aulay from the centre and started Alameda Research, a quantitative trading firm, in November 2017. He slowly gained greater ownership of the company and by 2021, owned approximately 90% of it.
Bankman-Fried organised an arbitrage trade in January 2018 when he realised the price differences of Bitcoin in the USA and Japan.
Essentially, he bought the cheaper bitcoin in Japan and sold it for a greater price in the USA. He continued this and eventually traded up to US$25 million per day.
Finally, in late 2018, he moved to Hong Kong and founded FTX. FTX was released in April 2019 and the rest is history.
Bankman-Fried is literally a real-life Robin Hood.
As of February 2022, he has given away between US$50 to 100 million. His foundation, FTX Foundation, has given away an estimate of US$250 million.
Some notable philanthropic work that he has done include donating to animal causes and his political donations.
While he was working at Jane Street, he gave about half his salary to charity, primarily to animal causes.
On the political side, he donated US$5.2 million to a committee supporting current US President Joe Biden in his presidential campaign. Also, in 2022, he contributed US$1 million to Beto O’Rourke’s failed campaign for Texas governor.
He once joked about spending US$1 billion on political causes alone. I wish I had the capacity to make such jokes…
The simple yet eccentric billionaire has also once said that the ultra-rich who spend money on their superyachts “can’t figure out what to do with their money.”
As a believer of effective altruism, Bankman-Fried is a strong proponent of “earning to give”. He has publicly announced that he wishes to give 99% of his money away in the future.
Well, I guess that’s not going to be happening now.
The Simple Life of Sam Bankman-Fried
If you thought that the king (or rather, old king) of the crypto empire lives a lavish life, you’d be wrong.
In actuality, he drives a Toyota Corolla. He lives with five of his close friends in a mansion but sleeps on a bean bag.
His go-to outfit would be a black hoodie, some bermudas, and a basic pair of sneakers. Nothing fancy.
It’s common to see him in that outfit during his interviews.
In Berkeley, he would sleep and live at work in the Alameda office, only to return to his apartment to shower. Visitors at the FTX office in Hong Kong would sometimes watch him sleep from a conference room and wake up to meet them in cargo shorts.
Crazy Buys for a Crazy Guy
Remember when I said he was simple? Okay, maybe he wasn’t the most simple person.
In 2022, before Elon Musk acquired Twitter, he proposed his interest in spending billions to join in on the Twitter acquisition deal, claiming that he could spend up to US$5 billion.
Also, in June 2021, he spent US$135 million for naming rights on Miami Heat’s home stadium, naming it the FTX stadium. He has also made plans to spend US$210 million on naming rights for Esports team TSM, wanting to name it TSMFTX, but the deal has been suspended.
Fall of FTX
Futures Exchange, better known as FTX, is a cryptocurrency exchange system which promotes transaction of digital currencies.
Started by Bankman-Fried in 2019, this platform originally saw hypergrowth. However, as it increased in popularity, it did not have enough to supply customer demands.
It was revealed to the public that Bankman-Fried had taken US$10 billion of FTX funds and pumped it into Alameda (yes, the company he founded before FTX), and reports alleged that Alameda had loans amounting to US$7.4 billion.
Many were skeptical about the solvency of the company (the ability to meet long-term debts and financial obligations) and worried that they stood to lose all their money. As such, they withdrew from the market.
The mass market pullout meant that FTX had to return the users’ money to them. Unfortunately, they lacked assets in their reserve to meet the demand and were forced into filing for bankruptcy.
On 11 November 2022, Bankman-Fried stepped down as CEO of FTX and FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
On 14 November, he released a thread of tweets in response to the fall of FTX. He first tweeted out the word “What” then tweeted individual letters that all came together to spell out “What HAPPENED”.
Then, on 16 November, he continued the thread of tweets giving his side of the story, explaining that he was trying to do his customers justice and focus on transparency. He claimed that he wanted to prioritise the users of FTX and make sure that they get their money back.
13) My goal—my one goal—is to do right by customers.
I’m contributing what I can to doing so. I’m meeting in-person with regulators and working with the teams to do what we can for customers.
And after that, investors. But first, customers.
— SBF (@SBF_FTX) November 15, 2022
He has also credited the fall to FTX’s complacency and carelessness.
Summaring everything, he has said that “none of that matters now.
“What matters is doing the best I can. And doing everything I can for FTX’s customers,” said Bankman-Fried
In total, he has posted 32 messages on Twitter.
You can read this article to understand how FTX collapsed all of a sudden.
Aftermath of his Actions
The fall of FTX has shook the world.
The incident is bigger than just the company itself because it has set off a chain of other incidents.
On the social front, many have lost their savings, fallen into depression, and some have even committed suicide. What’s gone is gone and can’t be brought back.
On the economic front, many brokers have been affected. One of which includes Genesis, which has a unit in Singapore.
Because of the massive amount of people wanting to pull out their money, and the lack of assets Genesis has in its pool, it has halted withdrawals.
Businesses aside, many cryptocurrencies have also taken a plunge. The most common one, Bitcoin, has dropped 10% and saw its lowest point in two years.
Legitimate issues were brought to light, like how peoples’ livelihoods are affected by this crash.
All because of his greed and overconfidence.
Understandably, many are heated. They criticised him for being reckless and said that he “should get zero sympathy”.
On crypto Twitter, they lambasted his actions and projected that he should go to jail. Others even said that he deserved to die.
Sam Bankman-Fried once said, “My goal is to have impact.” The man has lived a rollercoaster of a life: becoming a billionaire by 30, then losing it all in a year.
Technically, he has achieved his goal.
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