Michael Lewis’ biography of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), Going Infinite, is due to be released on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, coinciding with the first day of the FTX founder’s fraud trial in New York.
Ahead of the book’s launch, the renowned author has been teasing some of the juiciest insights readers can expect as the world relives the events that led up to Bankman-Fried’s arrest in December 2022.
In a recent 60-minute interview, Lewis discussed how Bankman-Fried’s journey to the realm of the superrich was accelerated by his decision to found a cryptocurrency exchange.
Prior to founding FTX, Bankman-Fried had already made a significant fortune trading crypto through Alameda Research. But as Lewis explained, turning from a trader to an exchange operator was the equivalent of a gambler starting a casino.
“He started as a gambler,” Lewis said, but pretty soon, he realized that “building the better casino was actually [going to] be more valuable.”
“If you’re sitting in the middle of those transactions and you’re taking out even a tiny fraction of a percentage point, there’s a lot of money to be made,” the biographer added.
In fact, FTX showed so much promise that some people thought SBF was on track to be the richest person in the world.
“Several of the venture capitalists thought that Sam might be the world’s first trillionaire,” Lewis said.
“They’re looking for the next Google. They’re looking for the next Apple. They thought FTX had that kind of possibility, that it had a chance to be the single most important financial institution in the world,” he added.
On top of hundreds of millions of dollars spent sponsoring major sports leagues and stadiums, FTX also signed sponsorship deals with high-profile sports stars like Tom Brady.
According to Going Infinite, FTX paid Brady $55 million for 20 hours a year for three years. But the book’s author insists his friendship with SBF was about more than just the money.
“Tom Brady, I think, adored him,” Lewis said. He “thought [SBF] was just a really interesting person. I think he liked to hear what he had to say,” he added.
In return, SBF “really liked” the NFL star, Lewis noted, describing their relationship as a surprising friendship between “the class nerd and the quarterback.”
Speculating on how the sportsman felt in the wake of the FTX collapse, Lewis said “Brady was I think crushed.”
“He clearly really liked him. And he really liked the hope that he brought,” the author noted.
The picture of SBF painted in Going Infinite isn’t one of the cliche lavish billionaire.
In fact, Lewis insists that SBF’s desire to become rich came hand-in-hand with his philanthropic ambitions.
Interestingly, the philanthropy described in his book focuses primarily on US politics.
“Sam Bankman-Fried ends up with a portfolio heavily concentrated in two things,” Lewis said in a recent interview .
On one hand, SBF reportedly showed interest in ‘pandemic prevention’ following the events of 2020-2021. ‘The other noteworthy item on his list was Donald Trump,’ he added.
According to Lewis, SBF viewed Donald Trump as an existential threat to US democracy. As such, in recent years, he made preventing a second Trump presidency one of his primary goals.
Going Infinite reveals that in 2022, SBF met with Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell to discuss funding Republican presidential candidates that could oppose Donald Trump.
Following that meeting, Bankman-Fried’s political donations turned increasingly toward the Republican party.
Whereas in 2020, Bankman-Fried had ranked among Joe Biden’s biggest donors, in the run-up to the 2024 elections, he planned to spend big on Trump’s rival in the race for the Republican nomination.
During his interviews with the FTX founder, Lewis said that SBF had the idea of paying Trump not to run.
“There was a number that was kicking around. And the number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam about this was $5 billion,” he stated. Although he added that “Sam was not sure that number came directly from Trump.”
Ultimately, however, “they were still having these conversations when FTX blew up,” Lewis observed. As a result, what once may have been a financial (if not necessarily legal) possibility, melted away when became clear that Bankman-Fried no longer had that kind of money.