The shocking implosion of crypto exchange FTX has become an embarrassment to a who’s who among the global elite, with some issuing mea culpas – and others seemingly scrambling to hide their ties to its disgraced 30-year-old founder, Sam Bankman-Fried.
Web archive sites show that the World Economic Forum – whose glitzy shindig in Davos, Switzerland is a go-to venue for billionaires and world leaders every year – previously listed FTX as one of its “ partners,” touting the Bahamas-based company as a “cryptocurrency exchange built by traders, for traders.”
Bankman-Fried was also a speaker at Davos last May alongside the likes of Google chief financial officer Ruth Porat and Bill Winters, CEO of London financial giant Standard Chartered. Nonetheless, the WEF has since scrubbed all mention of FTX from its website within days of the crypto exchange filing for bankruptcy.
“FTX was a partner of the World Economic Forum. In light of the events of the past week, their partnership has been suspended and they have been removed from the Partners section of our website,” a spokesperson for the Geneva-based organization headed by Klaus Schwab told The Post on Monday. .
According to a WEF insider, Bankman-Fried likely landed on the band’s site because he donated money to the band, in addition to their upcoming gig.
“The World Economic Forum survives on donations from outside organizations and businesses that are generally aligned with their mission and policy,” the source told The Post.
The WEF isn’t the only group with egg on its face because of its cheerleading for FTX and Bankman-Fried, whose $16 billion fortune evaporated in days – an astonishing meltdown which has drawn comparisons with Lehman Brothers and Enron. Bankman-Fried is under federal investigation.
Photographs circulated online over the weekend showing former President Bill Clinton sitting next to Bankman-Fried on stage – with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – at an event in the Bahamas last April.
The Post sought comment from Clinton’s office.
While big financial firms like Sequoia Capital, SoftBank, and BlackRock disclosed FTX’s losses in public filings, insiders say wealthier people bought in privately, usually investing money in FTX through through family offices.
“It’s like a Madoff situation…almost everyone in tech and Hollywood has invested in this thing,” an investor close to FTX told the Post. “Now nobody wants to admit it.”
An insider told the Post that Jan Koum — the Ukrainian billionaire who co-founded WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014 — bought a stake through his family office. Representatives for Koum did not respond to requests for comment.
Twitter users promoted a video over the weekend showing CNBC investment pundit Jim Cramer touting Bankman-Fried as “the JP Morgan of his generation.” The Post has reached out to Cramer and CNBC for comment.
Kevin O’Leary – the ‘Shark Tank’ investor who also admitted he took a dip on an FTX bet – posted a mea culpa on his Twitter account over the weekend, telling his 951,000 followers : “As an investor, you will never get it right every time. You will make a few mistakes. Sometimes big ones like FTX.
Tom Brady and now ex-wife Gisele Bündchen are among FTX’s most recognizable victims. After starring in several TV commercials promoting the crypto exchange, they got a stake in FTX which is now probably worthless. Golden State Warriors basketball star Steph Curry also received a stake in FTX. Curry, Brady and Bündchen were not immediately available for comment.
Elsewhere, Bankman-Fried’s FTX earlier this year collaborated with former White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci’s SALT conference to launch a star-studded cryptocurrency summit in the Bahamas.
“We are thrilled to welcome FTX as SALT’s first global partner and launch Crypto Bahamas. Sam and the FTX team are building the most important company in the crypto and broader financial industry,” said Scaramucci at the time.
The Salt Crypto Bahamas conference included the now infamous scene in which Bankman-Fried shared the stage with model Bündchen to talk about sustainability practices in the crypto industry.
As Bankman-Fried’s estimated luck soared to $26 billion during the pandemic-era cryptocurrency boom, the FTX founder used the windfall to cultivate warm media relationships .
Bankman-Fried was an early financial driver of Semafor, the blue chip startup co-founded by New York Times veteran Ben Smith and former Bloomberg CEO Justin B. Smith.
The ex-billionaire contributed money to Semafor in a Series A fundraiser that also drew contributions from media types such as The Atlantic chairman emeritus David G. Bradley and founder by The Information, Jessica Lessin.
Semafor mentioned its ties to Bankman-Fried in its reporting on FTX’s abrupt bankruptcy filing last week. The outlet also addressed its relationship with the founder of FTX in a story revealing that Bankman-Fried wanted to launch a competitor to publishing platform Substack, made up of its “favorite writers.”
“We closed our funding round in May and received all investments in full in USD. While we are closely monitoring developments, we do not anticipate any impact to our financial outlook or our business,” Semafor spokeswoman Meera Pattni said in a statement.
The Post has contacted Semafor for further comment.
The Bankman-Fried Family Foundation also awarded a $5 million grant to ProPublica earlier this year to “support investigations into ongoing issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, biosecurity, and public health preparedness.” “.
In June, Puck News reported that Bankman-Fried was hiring employees with journalism experience to advise him on media relations strategy for his pet projects, including future pandemic preparedness. His aides reportedly took meetings with “several newsrooms” about potential nonprofit and for-profit partnerships — all funded by Bankman-Fried.
Bankman-Fried was open about his ambitions to become a political kingmaker – once saying he planned to spend a whopping $1 billion in the 2024 presidential election cycle. He later walked back that cheeky claim , describing it as a “dumb quote”.
The disgraced executive may have scaled back his planned political spending, but he was still a major boost to left-leaning candidates and causes in the 2022 midterm elections. He was the second largest donor to the Democratic Party, behind George Soros.
Bankman-Fried spent about $36 million on political donations during the stretch — most of which went to Democratic-related causes, according to the Financial Times.
Some $27 million went to Protect Our Future, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates committed to pandemic prevention. His expenses included a disastrous $11 million investment in the campaign of Carrick Flynn, a first-time House candidate in Oregon who failed to make it past the primary.
Bankman-Fried’s sudden downfall has upset some Democratic Party members who expected a major influx of donor money in the coming months.
“Sam didn’t keep his promises,” a Democratic lobbyist told the outlet.
As for the WEF, his ties to Bankman-Fried also extend to his family. His aunt, Linda P. Fried, an epidemiologist who is dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, is listed on the WEF website.
In 2012, Linda P. Fried contributed to a WEF-funded study on the aging of the world population. The Post has asked for his comments.
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