Oct 3, 2022 - Economy

Inside Sam Bankman-Fried's flirtation with Elon Musk and Twitter

Photo illustration of Sam Bankman-Fried with hair made out of Twitter logos.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried backed off helping Elon Musk acquire Twitter, after a phone call with the Tesla and SpaceX founder, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The call, previously unreported, is a missing link to last week's court filing, in which Musk's text messages suggested that he had brushed off Bankman-Fried's interest.

What's in the court docs: In late March, Musk received texts from William MacAskill, an adviser to Bankman-Fried's philanthropic fund, encouraging Musk to meet with the FTX CEO. Soon, there were similar messages from Morgan Stanley tech banker Michael Grimes.

  • Bankman-Fried said investing between $1 billion and $3 billion would "be easy," and that be "could do" up to $8 billion without securing outside financing, MacAskill wrote in a message to Musk.
  • Grimes told Musk that Bankman-Fried had put $5 billion in writing, but verbally suggested an investment up to $10 billion.
  • Grimes added that the deal could be sealed with just a one-hour meeting, and that Bankman-Fried had offered to "do the engineering for social media blockchain integration," were Musk interested (he wasn't, per a thumbs-down reply).

What's not in the court docs: Bankman-Fried and Musk spoke via phone following the intros. Afterward, the crypto billionaire told Musk that he was no longer interested in participating on the Twitter deal.

  • The text messages disclosed in the court filing do not include any messages from Bankman-Fried to Musk in this time period. They do, however, include one from Musk to Bankman-Fried, asking: "Sorry, who is sending this message?"
  • It's unclear if Musk was truly confused, or if he was trying to shade Bankman-Fried for bailing on the investment.

Of note: Bankman-Fried holds a small stake in Twitter, a source with knowledge of the matter tells Lucinda.

  • He is said to have expressed interest in rolling those shares into the merger, although that was before Musk and Twitter began suing one another.

The bottom line: MacAskill's first message to Musk noted that Bankman-Fried "has for a while been potentially interested in purchasing [Twitter] and then making it better for the world."

  • Were Musk to not end up buying the company, either via a court victory or via a settlement to that effect, Bankman-Fried may again have interest. The odds are said to be remote, but not zero.
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