Canadian celebrity investor Kevin O’Leary said that he lost his entire $15 million payout from FTX, the defunct cryptocurrency exchange for which he was an ambassador.
FTX filed for bankruptcy last month after users discovered that the company was likely intertwined with Alameda Research; both were controlled by now-broke former billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried and a close-knit group of amateur executives. O’Leary, known for serving as a judge on reality startup show “Shark Tank,” said that his payout earned from work to promote the defunct company is swimming with the fishes.
“Total deal was just under $15 million, all in,” O’Leary said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” adding that he placed $9.7 million into cryptocurrencies. “I think that’s what I lost. I don’t know. It’s all at zero.”
Mr. Wonderful also had more than $1 million in FTX equity, which is now worthless due to the bankruptcy. The remaining benefits evaporated in taxes and agent fees.
“It was not a good investment,” he admitted.
O’Leary, known for his intense skepticism of pitches presented to “Shark Tank,” lamented that he fell victim to “groupthink.” The former software entrepreneur has lauded FTX on social media and expressed confidence in the company’s legitimacy.
“To find crypto investment opportunities that met my own rigorous standards of compliance, I entered into this relationship with FTX,” he said in a statement announcing the brand ambassador partnership last year. “It has some of the best crypto exchange offerings I’ve seen on the market. FTX leverages best-in-class tech to provide a quality trading experience with low fees for both professional and retail investors alike, while at the same time providing the reporting platform that serves both internal and regulatory compliance requirements.”
Bankman-Fried solicited a number of cultural icons to participate in advertisements featuring the exchange platform. Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel ex-wife Gisele Bündchen, and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal appeared in advertisements or otherwise promoted the company.
The celebrities were named in a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida on behalf of investor Edwin Garrison and others affected by the company’s failure. The complaint accused the icons of participating in a “fraudulent scheme” meant to deceive unsophisticated investors. The lawsuit argued that the brand ambassadors, many of whom received equity stakes in the company, failed to perform “any due diligence” before marketing FTX to the public, adding that their failure to disclose “the nature, scope, and amount of compensation they personally received” in exchange for promoting FTX represents “a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws.”
Bankman-Fried, the second-largest donor to the 2020 campaign of President Joe Biden and the sixth-largest overall contributor in the recent midterm elections, aggressively tried to recruit singer-songwriter Taylor Swift as a brand ambassador for his cryptocurrency empire. Reportedly a diehard fan of the pop star, Bankman-Fried neared the late stages of negotiating a $100 million sponsorship deal, according to a report from the Financial Times.