By Martha Ross, Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif. (TNS)
As news circulated over the weekend that Berkeley author Michael Lewis had spent the past six month embedded with former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried to reportedly write a book about the rise and fall of the cryptocurrency wunderkind, the financial markets continued to reel from the stunning collapse of his exchange.
Analysts also pondered whether Steph Curry, Tom Brady and his ex-wife Gisele Bundchen and FTX’s other high-profile backers will “lose big from the company’s bankruptcy filing,” MarketWatch reported. The implosion of Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange has cost customers billions of dollars in lost crypto deposits, setting off law-enforcement investigations that could lead to criminal charges, the New York Times reported.
FTX’s celebrity “brand ambassadors” could also face questions about their role in promoting such a risky investment. “There’s celebrity CEOs in this space as well as celebrity crypto entrepreneurs,” SEC chairman Gary Gensler said on CNBC last week, prior to FTX’s bankruptcy announcement Friday and Bankman-Fried’s resignation. “The public can fall prey to their promotions, their marketing and the like.”
Bankman-Fried, a Bay Area native and the son of Stanford professors, himself lost his entire $16 billion fortune, but he’s not the only high-profile investor who may be out of a lot of money, given that he and his company had substantial ties to the entertainment and sports industries, The Ankler reported. To some extent, those ties include Lewis, the acclaimed financial journalist and best-selling author of “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” both of which were made into Academy Award-nominated and -winning films.
Lewis, however, is not an investor. According to The Ankler, the author has been traveling with and interviewing Bankman-Fried for the past six months and will make the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange the centerpiece of his next book. The Ankler said it had obtained an email from CAA agent Matthew Snyder, which reveals that the book hasn’t been written yet. It’s expected to cover Bankman-Fried’s childhood and the creation of his crypto empire that made him “one of the richest people in the world,” The Ankler said.
It remains to be seen how much Curry, Brady and Bündchen will figure into the book—and potential movie adaptation. Each were given equity stakes in FTX, MarketWatch reported. It’s not clear how much any of them received, but FTX raised capital at a $32 billion valuation after their deals with the company were announced, MarketWatch said. None of the three responded to MarketWatch’s request for comment.
They, Larry David and Naomi Osaka also were paid to endorse FTX and appeared in much-ridiculed spots endorsing the company, The Ankler added. Curry was made a global ambassador for FTX; the Golden State Warriors star’s commercial humorously plays up the idea that he’s no “expert” in cryptocurrency, the concept of which remains elusive to many consumers.
It ends with the NBA champion assuring his fans and others that they don’t need to know that much about cryptocurrency to make money investing—if they use FTX.
“No I’m not an expert and I don’t need to be,” Curry said, holding up his phone showing the FTX app. “I have everything I need to buy, sell and trade crypto safely.”
For his part, Brady served as an ambassador for the company, while Bündchen specifically held a post as “FTX’s Environmental & Social Initiatives Advisor,” MarketWatch said.
The exes also starred in several TV commercials for FTX. One, like the Curry commercial, also doesn’t age well in light of recent events. It starts off with the ex-couple at home in their stylish kitchen, alluding to his reluctance to retire from playing football—an issue that reportedly contributed to their recent divorce. The commercial then shows Brady calling various people to let them know, “I’m getting into crypto. With FTX. You in?”
At the time, Brady spoke glowingly about FTX and Bankman-Fried, according to MarketWatch. “It’s an incredibly exciting time in the crypto-world and Sam and the revolutionary FTX team continue to open my eyes to the endless possibilities,” he said.
Brady also highlighted one of the main ways Bankman-Fried tried to promote himself: His advocacy for a type of philanthropy known as “effective altruism,” which advocates applying data and evidence to doing the most good for the many, the New York Times reported.
Brady said: “This particular opportunity showed us the importance of educating people about the power of crypto while simultaneously giving back to our communities and planet. We have the chance to create something really special here, and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to do together.”
But as the New York Times reported Sunday, the collapse of FTX has meant the destruction of Bankman-Fried’s fortune and reputation, and has probably dealt a severe blow to his philanthropic efforts.
“Now nonprofits are scrambling to replace millions in grant commitments from Bankman-Fried’s charitable vehicles, and members of the effective altruism community are asking themselves whether they might have helped burnish his reputation,” the New York Times reported.
A day after FTX filed for bankruptcy, the exchange said on Saturday that it was investigating “unauthorized transactions” flowing from its accounts, possibly as a result of hacking or theft, as crypto researchers documented suspicious transfers of $515 million, the New York Times also reported.
(Photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
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