Sam Bankman-Fried unsurprisingly emerges as the sole protagonist (and possible antihero) in a new book on the collapse the FTX exchange that rocked the crypto world late last year.
"My book's thesis is that there's only one character, and that's Sam," Brady Dale, a crypto reporter at Axios, says in a new episode of The Scoop. "It's the story of Sam. And then a bunch of people who got sucked into his vision."
Released today, the book, "SBF: How The FTX Bankruptcy Unwound Crypto's Very Bad Good Guy," was written in real time, with Dale saying that he didn't take time off from his day job for the project and felt at times like he was "drowning in Sam." The author says he used Greek and mythical images throughout the book to bring life to the story and comment on Bankman-Friend's worldview.
"Do I think it was a Greek tragedy?" Dale says. "I certainly think Sam was someone who flew too close to the sun. And I also think he thought he knew how to fly places that other people knew not to fly to."
It's among the first books being released about the spectacular implosion of FTX. "Big Short" writer Michael Lewis had spent months with Bankman-Fried ahead of the collapse and is also working on a book.
SBF's surprise revelation
He said the biggest surprise of the project came on the day when he was supposed to turn in the final manuscript, when he finally landed an interview with Bankman-Fried and asked him for the reason that the FTT tokens at the center of the exchange's problems seemed to be directed through a wallet controlled by sister trading fund Alameda Research after an unlock event.
"And so I asked Sam why that was and he said, 'oh, well, that's because FTT always belonged to Alameda. That was the deal from the start, like all of the locked up, set aside FTT was Alameda's. That was our payment to Alameda for letting our executives come work for this new exchange, FTX. That was sort of FTX's payment to Alameda,'" Dale recounts. "And I mean, that was a big revelation."
While Dale says he had viewed Bankman-Fried to be a "super smart guy" and "unique in the space," he found the former billionaire to be "surprisingly unemotional." He also believes that FTX had not necessarily been doomed to fail and that it had been fine through the end of the bull market in 2021.
'Sam needed to be at the top of the heap'
"My guess is Sam believed that when the bear market came, he either had to win then and make FTX the number one cryptocurrency exchange in the world, or he was always going to be number two to Binance," Dale says. "I believe he thinks that that was his opportunity. And so they took a few last big swings in late 2021 and early 2022. This is my guess. And that's what went wrong for them, because they thought they were the smartest guys in the room."
"Sam needed to be at the top of the heap," Dale continues. "It wasn't just enough to be successful."
The book, published by John Wiley & Sons, is available at booksellers around the world.
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