Nov 10, 2022 - Economy

Inside Sam Bankman-Fried's call with investors

Sam Bankman-Fried

FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Dozens of venture capitalists yesterday logged onto a Zoom call with FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, to learn more about the crumbling crypto exchange into which they'd invested around $2 billion.

Why it matters: Less than an hour after the call ended, Binance tweeted that the deal was dead.

  • During the call, Bankman-Fried assured the venture capitalists that his agreement to sell FTX to rival Binance remained in play, despite market rumor to the contrary.

On the line: FTX investors remain largely in the dark, trying to piece together how a company they valued earlier this year at $33 billion could now be worth less than a stick of gum.

  • Bankman-Fried on the call attempted to walk everyone through the chain of recent events, including some information on how FTX got upside-down on counterparty agreements with Alameda Trading, a crypto hedge fund that Bankman-Fried founded and which partially operates just feet away from his desk in a nondescript Bahamas office park.
  • But investors say Bankman-Fried was as evasive as he was explanatory, apologetic but not commensurate with what he'd apparently done.
  • One source says that the meeting was set up whereby everyone was unmuted, thus making it difficult to have private side conversations. They've still not received detailed balance sheet information.
  • Several meeting participants — including members of Sequoia Capital, Insight Partners and Thoma Bravo — asked in the chat when a follow-up call would take place, but didn't receive a definitive answer. As with a letter sent to FTX backers on Tuesday, the general message was: Don't call me, I'll call you.

The big picture: If any FTX investors woke up yesterday thinking they could salvage some value, they went to bed without hope.

  • Sequoia Capital sent a letter to limited partners, acknowledging it had entirely written off the value of its $213.5 million investment into FTX. It also defended its due diligence process.
  • Paradigm sent out its own LP letter, obtained by Axios, also saying that its entire $278 million investment in FTX will most likely be lost. The crypto-focused firm added that it doesn't have a counterparty relationship with FTX, nor any direct position in, or exposure to, FTT tokens.
  • Many firms, including Sequoia and Paradigm, invested in both FTX and FTX US, a domestic business that has claimed to not have the same liquidity issues or counterparty relationship to Alameda. Investors fear, however, that an FTX bankruptcy is likely to reach into FTX US to help repay creditors, given that Sam Bankman-Fried is CEO of both (and has made no known move to resign from either).

Breaking: Bankman-Fried apologized publicly this morning in a series of tweets, adding that he will wind down Alameda and continue to seek bailout funding for FTX.

  • Axios' Lucinda Shen reports that one possible partner with which FTX has held talks is U.S. crypto exchange Kraken.

Due diligence: Venture capitalists acknowledge to me that they wish they'd insisted on more oversight at FTX, although they add they had little leverage.

  • Their check sizes, while large in a vacuum, were small in terms of ownership percentage. They did gain some small concessions during negotiation, but ultimately had to accept Bankman-Fried's terms or walk. They chose FOMO.
  • Plus, as one investor sighed: "Even if we'd been on the board, why are you so sure we would have been given accurate information?"

The bottom line: I'm not sure. No one is. As every investor is telling their limited partners, this will take many more months to sort out. And likely a court.

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