A host of celebrities stand to lose massive stakes in cryptocurrency platform FTX after the company suddenly went under last week.
FTX filed for bankruptcy on Friday after users discovered that firms controlled by Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old founder of FTX, were likely fraudulently intertwined. The entrepreneur went from maintaining a $15.6 billion net worth to having “no material wealth” virtually overnight, according to data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Among other aggressive marketing efforts, FTX had solicited a number of professional athletes to participate in advertisements featuring the exchange platform. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who divorced last month, were once brand ambassadors with the company and held equity stakes, according to a report from FTX.
Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry was also made an ambassador for the company and given shares, according to a report from MarketWatch. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence agreed to a multi-year sponsorship contract with FTX in which he would receive cryptocurrency as part of his signing bonus. The company also signed deals to become the “official cryptocurrency exchange partner” of Major League Baseball and paid to call the Miami Heat’s home court the FTX Arena until at least 2040.
Blockfolio, a subsidiary of FTX, became a sponsor of Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy’s retail investing show Davey Daytrader Global. According to Portnoy, the company was their “biggest client ever.” Influencer and athlete Logan Paul partnered with FTX ahead of his fight with Floyd Mayweather, while comedian Larry David appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for FTX earlier this year.
Los Angeles Angels pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani became a global ambassador for the company at the end of last year and received “all of his compensation in equity and cryptocurrencies,” according to a press release. Other ambassadors included basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, celebrity investor Kevin O’Leary, retired baseball player David Ortiz, and tennis star Naomi Osaka, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
Account holders reportedly had difficulty removing their assets from FTX after the company filed for bankruptcy. It is not clear whether the celebrities paid in cryptocurrency continued to manage the digital coins in FTX accounts.
At least some celebrities and investors, however, were wise enough to avoid FTX and Bankman-Fried. As revealed in messages between Elon Musk and investment banker Michael Grimes, the purported wunderkind had expressed interest in joining the world’s richest man as he acquired social media company Twitter, through both a multibillion-dollar stake and assistance with engineering a blockchain component for the platform.
When approached by Grimes about the potential partnership, Musk said that he was “backlogged with a mountain of critical work matters” and observed that supporting Twitter via blockchain would be “impossible,” since the bandwidth requirements would demand an “absolutely gigantic” peer-to-peer network that would defeat the purpose of decentralization. After Grimes said that Bankman-Fried would still be interested in Musk’s vision for Twitter purely from an investment standpoint, the world’s richest man agreed to speak with him later as long as he did not “have to have a laborious blockchain debate.”
Once the cryptocurrency exchange fizzled, Musk confirmed on social media that he had never trusted Bankman-Fried. “He set off my bs detector,” Musk said, “which is why I did not think he had” $3 billion.
Bankman-Fried, a self-proclaimed “effective altruist,” contributed nearly $39 million to support Democrats in the recent midterm elections, which occurred days before his company imploded, according to data from Open Secrets. He had been preparing to spend as much as $1 billion during the 2024 election cycle to keep the Democratic Party in control of the White House.