7 wildest things that happened at Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto firm FTX

Sam Bankman-Fried co-founded the crypto exchange FTX in 2019.
FTX

  • Crypto exchange FTX collapsed almost a year ago and its cofounder Sam Bankman-Fried is going to jail.
  • Bankman-Fried was once revered in the crypto industry and FTX was endorsed by major celebrities. 
  • Insider compiled a list of the seven wildest stories that have now emerged about the crypto firm. 

The failed crypto exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy just over a year ago, in November 2022, and a series of wild stories have emerged about the company since.

The company’s collapse revealed that its cofounder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried had secretly been funnelling customer funds to prop up its sister firm Alameda Research. 

Bankman-Fried has now been found guilty of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy in a month long criminal trial in Manhattan and may face up to 110 years in prison. 

However, the disgraced tech founder was once a billionaire and revered in the crypto industry. He had connections all over the entertainment industry including with celebrities like Anna Wintour, Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, and Larry David. 

He was also the poster-boy for a movement known as effective altruism, where he claimed to give as much of his money away as possible to charitable movements. 

However, since FTX’s bankruptcy, details have emerged about the wild and lavish lifestyle Bankman-Fried and his colleagues at FTX lived. 

Read on to discover some of the craziest revelations about FTX to have emerged in the past year.

1. He lived in a $35 million penthouse with his colleagues

An image of the condo shared by prosecutors during Bankman-Fried’s trial.
Courtesy of the US Department of Justice

Bankman-Fried lived out his time at FTX in a roughly $35 million penthouse condo in the Bahamas, where the crypto firm’s headquarters were located. 

The penthouse, named the “Orchid,” was 12,000 square feet, had sweeping views of the ocean, floor-to-ceiling windows, a private spa, and an outdoor pool and jacuzzi. 

The disgraced founder lived in the luxurious property with his “inner circle” of colleagues at FTX including Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX cofounder Gary Wang, and engineering director Nishad Singh. 

The condo was decorated with Harry Potter posters and they spent much of their time playing board games like Galaxy Trucker, Wingspan, 7 Wonders, and Chess.

2. His inner circle all dated each other

Caroline Ellison leaving the courthouse during Bankman-Fried’s trial.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

FTX and Alameda Research was “run by a gang of kids in the Bahamas,” which refers to Bankman-Fried’s inner circle of ten roommates who were well-known for their interconnected dating lives.

The most notable of the bunch, Ellison and Bankman-Fried, had dated each other at one point. 

During FTX’s criminal trial, Ellison testified that they began sleeping with each other and formally dating in 2020. Although they tried to keep it a secret from staff, word got around. 

“In our personal relationship, there was a feeling that I wanted more in our relationship,” Ellison testified in court. “But I felt like he was distant or not paying enough attention to me.”

3. They spent thousands of dollars on company lunches

Sam Bankman-Fried.
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Bankman-Fried and FTX’s favourite lunch spot was Cocoplum, a restaurant located near the company’s headquarters. 

Restaurant staff said Bankman-Fried often spent $2,500 on lunch for himself and staff, who often brought guests. 

Cocoplum was one of several restaurants that delivered lunch to the headquarters regularly, with costs often amounting to $10,000 a day.

4. They had an in-house psychiatrist involved in employees’ dating lives

Sam Bankman-Fried.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

FTX hired psychologist Dr. George Lerner in 2022 who acted as a career coach and counsel to employees. He could offer staff drugs like Xanax or Adderall if needed. 

Lerner was also unusually concerned with the dating lives of FTX staff — many of whom were in their 20s. He told Vice in an interview that he was worried staff would “leave the company due to lack of romantic relationships available.” 

He explained that life in the Bahamas came with limited social and entertainment choices so he was always on the lookout for “dating options” for staff. 

In a message viewed by Vice, he told crypto advisor Margaux Avedisian, that he was “trying to find women,” for FTX workers to improve their lives in the Bahamas. 

5. They once spent $1 million removing a doorway after a dispute

REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

When FTX was still headquartered in Hong Kong, two architects Ian Rosenfield and Alfia White, were given a hundreds of millions of dollars budget to build its new campus in the Bahamas, according to Michael Lewis’ biography  about Bankman-Fried. 

The architects found out from employees that there had been a dispute about a single door in the Hong Kong office which Rosenfield called “the million-dollar door.” 

One employee said it should be removed due to Feng Shui — an ancient Chinese practise focused on harmonizing individuals to the energy of their environment. But another staff member was adamant that the door remains. 

The doorway was ultimately removed and replaced by another costing $1 million, per Lewis’ biography.

6. They once stored $500 million of crypto in a USB stick

Photo illustration shows USB device being plugged into a laptop computer in Berlin
Thomson Reuters

The day FTX declared bankruptcy in November 2022, FTX adviser Kumanan Ramanathan placed as much as $500 million worth of crypto in a USB stick for several hours to prevent hackers from stealing it. 

Kumanan stayed in his office to safeguard the USB stick in the early hours of the morning but eventually called the police, over fears the thieves would try to physically steal the storage device. 

The hackers eventually managed to steal about $415 million worth of crypto. One former employee described the situation as “chaos.”

7. Alameda Research staff found out FTX was bankrupt when the company card was declined

A discarded credit card.
Gary Coronado/Getty Images

Employees at Alameda Research only realized FTX had gone bankrupt after a company card was declined when they tried to order takeout. 

The team had been anxiously awaiting news about the company’s survival in November 2022 and ordered dinner. 

“We ordered our lunch in the afternoon, same as usual,” a former software engineer at FTX Aditya Baradwaj told The New York Post.

“When we went to order our food in the evening, the app says ‘credit card declined.’ That’s the moment where we realized ‘holy shit, the company is probably broke.'” 



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