Economics/Class Relations

How Sam Bankman-Fried’s empire collapsed in 48 hours

By Alyson Shontell, Fortune

In August, Fortune put a high-flying billionaire on its cover.


Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, founded one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, FTX. He launched it in 2019 with some friends in the Bahamas, and scaled it to a valuation of more than $30 billion last summer. He earned the trust of top investors like Sequoia Capital, celebrities like Tom Brady, and even regulators in DC. His net worth topped $26 billion by some estimates, and he became one of Joe Biden’s largest donors.


At the time, SBF—as he is known in crypto circles—seemed like a white knight of a volatile industry enduring a steep downturn, building the closest thing to a blue-chip blockchain company users could rely on. As he swooped in to buy suddenly undervalued companies, some compared his investment style to Warren Buffett.


We noted in our cover story by Jeff John Roberts that SBF was soaring—but that he could also crash and burn.


His downfall was swift. It only took 48 hours and four tweets from top rival, Binance founder “CZ” Changpeng Zhao, to crash Sam Bankman-Fried’s sprawling empire.


On Friday, FTX and Alameda Research, his two intertwined companies, filed for bankruptcy.


Bankman-Fried resigned as FTX’s CEO.


So, did SBF belong on our August cover? I’d say yes, unequivocally.


I have always loved magazines—and their covers in particular. The best covers visually capture a moment in time, creating a cultural symbol that depicts that moment’s leaders and trendsetters—even if their success is fleeting or their triumphs end in disaster.


I’m proud that we had the foresight to capture SBF at his peak—and his antagonist, Binance founder CZ, before that.


It will always be a key part of Fortune‘s mission to introduce you to leaders who are gaining and losing power—and to help you understand why.


We will also provide the information you need most to know in business as it unfolds, so you can make sense of the landscape and be prepared for whatever lies ahead.


As SBF’s saga shows, businesses succeed and fail because of the people who lead them and the choices they make. We will continue to show you who should be on your radar, and what you can learn from them—both their successes and failures.

Read our cover stories of Sam Bankman-Fried and Changpeng Zhao below.
Sam Bankman-Fried breaks silence on what went wrong with FTX: ‘I f****d up twice’


Crypto’s white knight and golden child speaks for the first time since the spectacular implosion of his crypto exchange following a sell off of its coins.


NOVEMBER 10, 2022

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