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This Journalist Had a Personal Audience With Sam Bankman-Fried Amid the Collapse of FTX

2 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • Michael Lewis, a renowned author and journalist, saw the fall of FTX up close while working on a book about Sam Bankman-Fried.
  • Despite the dramatic turn of events, Lewis continued to write his manuscript, which explores the rise and fall of Bankman-Fried's empire.
  • FTX, once a leading cryptocurrency exchange, imploded in November 2022.
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Well-known author and journalist Michael Lewis was at the front lines during the implosion of FTX. The writer was in the process of finishing his latest book on Sam Bankman-Fried when everything fell apart.

As Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX empire crumbled in the fall of last year, Michael Lewis, one of America’s most prolific and well-known business journalists, got to see it all.

The FTX Implosion Up Close

As reported in the New York Times on Tuesday, Lewis, who wrote the book The Big Short about how a group of traders profited from the financial crisis of 2008, was then writing his book Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon.

The Times interview details how Lewis was close to finishing his manuscript when FTX collapsed. Understandably, the writing has continued since the story took a dramatic turn last year.

FTX was one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges before it imploded in November 2022. Bankman-Fried faces charges of money laundering, bribery, and orchestrating a fraudulent scheme that involved billions of dollars of customer funds. For his part, Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Briefly a crypto superstar, Bankman-Fried’s fall from grace was swift and, for many, a bolt from the blue. Ironically, New York Magazine even turned to Bankman-Fried as a source for an August 2022 cover story on the implosion of another crypto exchange, Three Arrows Capital.

That story described Bankman-Fried as someone “who as CEO of FTX, a major crypto exchange that has bailed out some of the bankrupt lenders, has perhaps more visibility on the problems than anyone.”

Events have proven that statement true, though maybe not in the sense the writer intended.

Lewis Also Wrote The Big Short and Moneyball

The veteran journalist was present when Bankman-Fried was arrested in December in the Bahamas. Lewis had continued access to Bankman-Fried despite the legal proceedings, with the CEO’s confinement to his home.

Lewis said that despite the ongoing legal nightmare, the conversations they shared didn’t change much. They were “rich and interesting” before the fall of FTX, he said, and the same description applies now.

“They’re longer, actually,” Lewis told the New York Times. “Instead of talking to him for 45 minutes because that’s all he had, I’m now talking to him for four hours.” According to Lewis, the two are meeting approximately once every two weeks.

Lewis admits that he was impressed by the world’s youngest billionaire—”enthralled by the eccentric young man with untamed hair.”

But the author is reluctant to expand on whether or not he fell for Sam Bankman-Fried’s ruse. We will have to wait for the new book to find out.

“I want the reader to experience surprise when reading it,” said Lewis.

Was He Fooled?

In a May 18 piece in Fortune magazine, noted cryptocurrency journalist Jeff John Roberts said that Lewis’s original manuscript portrayed Bankman-Fried as a plucky outsider. A “brave and savvy outsider who bucks convention and goes on to be validated.”

Of course, if that was the case, the book would have required a heavy rewrite.

Penguin plans to release Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon on October 10, 2023.

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.