Sep 19, 2022 - Axios Events

Crypto gets top billing at SkyBridge SALT event amid market "winter"

Illustrated collage of the FTX logo, money and rectangles.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

We're in a crypto "winter," but you wouldn’t know it by attending the annual SALT conference in New York City this week, sponsored by hedge fund SkyBridge.

Driving the news: A week ago, the Anthony Scaramucci-founded firm announced it sold a 30% stake to crypto exchange FTX — and the conference felt like an ad for the hedge fund’s new owner.

  • FTX was everywhere: logos all over the event, an interview with CEO Sam Bankman-Fried kicking off the conference, and his other execs littered throughout the rest of the day's program (four spoke on stage, according to the agenda).

The big picture: The price of bitcoin is off 70% from its all-time high last November, while laser eyes and ".eth" (a reference to ethereum) have all but disappeared from Twitter profiles. Yet SkyBridge seems to be betting the farm (or at least 30% of it) on crypto.

  • “We did that because Sam is a visionary and probably the most visionary person in crypto,” Scaramucci told a group of journalists at the event. "[Crypto] is better technology than the current technology."
  • While FTX only bought a fraction of the investment firm, it has the option to acquire up to 85% as part of the deal, according to Scaramucci.
  • The firm immediately purchased $40 million worth of crypto assets, though he declined to name them to avoid creating “hype.” It will continue to invest in non-crypto assets as well.

Flashback: The tie-up between the two companies isn’t the beginning of their close relationship. As part of a multi-year deal, FTX bankrolled SkyBridge’s crypto-focused conference this past April, which was even set in the Bahamas. That’s where FTX relocated last year.

  • Discussions initially focused on the two companies partnering in some way, but eventually turned into an investment discussion.
  • The two hammered out the deal over a vegetarian meal at the Rosewood Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas, according to Scaramucci. They settled on a 30% stake as a compromise.
  • And it’s no surprise SkyBridge was so amenable to the ultimate deal: In 2017, the firm inked a deal to sell itself to China’s HNA Group. However, following regulatory pressure, the acquisition was dropped the following year.

The bottom line: We may be in a bear market, but crypto’s true believers won’t go gentle into that good night.

  • One refrain that came up over and over at the conference was that "crypto winter" is when some of the best companies — and investment opportunities — are built.
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