The revelations about Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX aren’t going to be confined to the courtroom.
As the trial of the disgraced King of Crypto gets underway (follow along with Fast Company’s coverage inside the courtroom here), a new book by Moneyball and The Big Short author Michael Lewis focusing on SBF has hit shelves. And Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon is already one of the best-selling books on Amazon—and loaded with new stories of Bankman-Fried’s ascension and sudden collapse.
Lewis began to shadow SBF about a year before the FTX founder was arrested, giving him a front-row seat to the company’s downfall and the financial, political, and possibly legal moves of its founder. Even as SBF sat under house arrest in his parents’ house (before being sent back to jail), he continued to speak with Lewis, who writes in detail about the FTX scandal.
The 288-page tome follows Bankman-Fried’s attempt to live life by his own rules. (Lewis, it’s worth noting, has already come under criticism for what some say is an overly sympathetic portrait of SBF.) Here are some of the revelations found within.
SBF considered paying Trump $5 billion not to run again
Bankman-Fried’s political contributions flew under the radar for a long while. (Lewis notes SBF contributed $5.2 million to Biden’s 2020 campaign and was never even thanked for it.) But when he became a more visible donor, he considered one transaction that was distinctly different than what other contributors might have contemplated.
SBF, writes Lewis, viewed Trump an “existential risk” and decided the best way to remove him was to pay him not to run for president—an idea Trump was reportedly open to.
“His team had somehow created a back channel into the Trump operation and returned with the not terribly Earth-shattering news that Donald Trump might indeed have his price: $5 billion. Or so Sam was told by his team,” Lewis writes.
Speaking with 60 Minutes Sunday, Lewis said Bankman-Fried didn’t follow through with the plan in part because he was unsure if making this payment would be legal, but mostly because that’s about when the bottom fell out at FTX.
“They were still having these conversations when FTX blew up,” Lewis told CBS. “So why didn’t it happen? He didn’t have $5 billion anymore.”
FTX’s planned headquarters were an homage to SBF’s most visible feature
In a throwaway line, Lewis notes architects designing a new FTC headquarters building in the Bahamas were asked to structure the exterior of the building to resemble SBF’s hair.
“Sam wanted the building shaped like an F for the benefit of the people in the planes descending into Lynden Pindling International Airport,” Lewis writes. “He wanted the side of the building to evoke his unruly hair. . . . The third and final item on the list of Sam’s desires was the tungsten cube. . . . Sam had apparently ordered up such a cube [which was just 14 inches, but weighed 2,000 pounds and cost $250,000], flown it into the Bahamas, and wanted it displayed on a plinth in his mini city.”
SBF paid $55 million for 20 hours of Tom Brady’s time—and they supposedly became friends
Bankman-Fried wasn’t a sports fan, but he knew the value of having big-name athletes promote FTX—and he spent heavily to get them on board. The biggest winner in this was Tom Brady, who was paid $55 million for 20 hours of his time annually over three years. (Brady’s ex-wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, was paid $20 million for the same time commitment.)
SBF and Brady became an unexpected odd couple as a friendship grew between them.
“He really liked Tom Brady. And Sam wasn’t, like, a big sports person, so it was funny to watch that interaction,” Lewis told 60 Minutes. “It was like, ‘These two people actually get along.’ It’s like the class nerd and the quarterback. . . . I think Tom Brady thought he was just a really interesting person. I think he liked to hear what he had to say.”
The friendship ended when FTX collapsed, hitting Brady in the pocket (the quarterback had also been promised $30 million in FTX stock for an endorsement deal). Lewis noted Brady also never got a “really good explanation about what’s happened” and no longer wants to have anything to do with SBF.
SBF often played video games during television interviews and Zoom meetings
Bankman-Fried’s love of video games has been well documented. (He famously played at a meeting with Sequoia investors one time.) He was a big fan of League of Legends and Storybook Brawl, an independent game that shut down in April, after being purchased by FTX in 2022. But the depth of his obsession with games might have been undersold.
When he began doing television interviews, his head of marketing, Natalie Tien, noticed SBF’s eyes were moving all around. She later would walk behind SBF and discover why: He was playing a game at the same time he was giving a live television interview.
“Often, on live TV, Sam would not only play a video game but respond to messages, edit documents, and tweet,” Lewis writes. “The TV interviewer would ask him a question and Sam would say, “Ahhhh, interesting question”—even though he never found any of the questions interesting. And Natalie knew he was just buying time to exit whatever game he was playing and reenter the conversation. Natalie didn’t know how a person was supposed to behave on live television, but she suspected it wasn’t like this.”
He would also covertly play games while on Zoom calls with any number of people, including Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Lewis appears to write off the behavior as SBF being SBF.
“Sam didn’t want to seem rude,” writes Lewis. “It was just that he needed to be playing this other game at the same time as whatever game he had going in real life. His new social role as the world’s most interesting new child billionaire required him to do all kinds of dumb stuff. He needed something, other than what he was expected to be thinking about, to occupy his mind.”
SBF didn’t know his board of directors
Checks and balances weren’t much of a thing at FTX. In fact, writes Lewis, SBF didn’t even know the names of two of the three people on the company’s board of directors—and said their only purpose was to rubber stamp whatever he wanted.
“It’s unclear if we even have to have an actual board of directors,” he quotes Bankman-Fried as saying. “But we get some suspicious glances if we don’t have one, so we have something with three people on it. . . . I know who they were three months ago. It might have changed. The main job requirement is they don’t mind DocuSigning at three a.m. DocuSigning is the main job.”
The company also lacked a chief financial officer—again, because SBF didn’t want one.
“There’s a functional religion around the CFO,” Lewis quotes SBF. “I’ll ask them. ‘Why do I need one?’ Some people cannot articulate a single thing the CFO is supposed to do. They’ll say ‘keep track of the money’ or ‘make projections.’ I’m like What the fuck do you think I do all day? You think I don’t know how much money we have?”
(John Ray, the bankruptcy expert who took over as CEO of FTX after Bankman-Fried’s departure, told Congress last December, assets were missing from the company, and, “We don’t know where all of our wallets are.”)
SBF was aware of his eccentricities
SBF’s relationship with Caroline Ellison, who is expected to be a key witness against him in the trial, was a complex, ultimately doomed one. At one point, he wrote a memo to her detailing what he saw as the pros and cons of them continuing to see each other romantically. He said he enjoyed the physical relationship and called her a good person, but when running down the cons, he mentioned the power dynamic between them and potential PR fallout.
His most harsh criticisms, though, were reserved for himself.
“In a lot of ways I don’t really have a soul,” he wrote. “There’s a pretty decent argument that my empathy is fake, my feelings are fake, my facial reactions are fake. I don’t feel happiness. What’s the point in dating someone who you physically can’t make happy?”
SBF is more afraid of losing internet access than jail
SBF, says Lewis, believes himself to be innocent of all charges against him. And while the threat of being locked away is real, the author says the thing he believes Bankman-Fried is really afraid of is losing access to the internet.
“Now that sounds crazy, but I do think that if he had the internet, he could survive jail forever. Without having a constant stream of information to react to—I think he may go mad,” Lewis told 60 Minutes. “If you gave Sam Bankman-Fried a choice—this is quite serious—of living in a $39 million penthouse in the Bahamas without the internet, or the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn with the internet, there’s no question in my mind he’d take the jail.”
SBF wanted to secure naming rights of two more stadiums
FTX, in 2021, paid $135 million to rename the home of the Miami Heat as FTX Arena. It was supposed to be a 19-year deal, but after the company’s bankruptcy, the league terminated the deal in January 2023. Bankman-Fried had plans to spread the FTX name to other stadiums as well, however. Lewis notes FTX tried and failed to secure sponsorships for the stadiums used by the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints before signing the deal in Miami.
Once the Miami deal was signed, FTX exploded into the sports world, signing spokesperson deals with LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal and paying Major League Baseball $162.5 million to put the company’s logo on every umpire uniform.
SBF would ask Lewis for advice, including whether he should help buy Twitter
Given the amount of time SBF spent with Lewis, the FTX founder seemingly began to feel a bond, of sorts. And over time, he began to ask Lewis’s advice on a number of matters, including, says Lewis, whether he should join Elon Musk in buying Twitter.
“Mostly, my answers were no, no, and no. And he would look at me and say, ‘You’re a boring grown-up,'” Lewis said.
SBF kept a chaotic schedule that spanned all hours
Hotel rooms that were booked for the FTX CEO would often be untouched. Instead, he might be found walking the streets tweeting or talking to a journalist on the other side of the world. Instead of sleeping at night, he would doze at odd hours in a beanbag chair next to his desk. Tien would set multiple alarms throughout the morning to see if SBF had set off any PR fires while she slept.
While SBF would agree to meetings, he would often simply not show up, which led to some last-minute scrambling by organizations and executives.
“CEOs had flown to the Bahamas under the mistaken impression that Sam had agreed to buy their companies,” writes Lewis. “The World Economic Forum had to scramble to fill a stage and cancel media interviews after Sam decided, the night before he was meant to deliver a big speech in Davos, not to. Sam had failed to fly to Dubai to give the keynote at Time magazine’s party for the world’s 100 Most Influential People, even after Time had named him to their list and flattered him in print.”
It was never done out of rudeness or spite, Lewis added. It’s simply how SBF’s brain works.
“If he stood you up, it was never on a whim, or the result of thoughtlessness. It was because he’d done some math in his head that proved that you weren’t worth the time,” he writes.