Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX lived life of luxury in Bahamas enclave


Crypto wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried had promised the island paradise a path to financial glory. His meltdown has left some Bahamians worried about the ripple effects.

(Video: Courtey of Margaux Avedisian; Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg; Obtained by The Post)


NASSAU, Bahamas — Before Sam Bankman-Fried’s $16 billion empire imploded, Margaux Avedisian remembers thinking there was something unsettling about the cryptocurrency wunderkind.

Bankman-Fried had become a legend by pushing an image of monkish aloofness, vowing to forsake the allures of his extraordinary wealth — sleeping on beanbag chairs, driving a Toyota Corolla — and to give away his fortune for the greater good.

Yet in April, when Avedisian was hired as a master of ceremonies for a conference in the Bahamas sponsored by FTX, Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, she saw how the 30-year-old billionaire really lived: in a guarded island compound, every need closely catered to, the world’s elite at his beck and call.

Conference guests partied in casinos where Bahamians weren’t allowed to gamble and hobnobbed with celebrity attendees, including singer Katy Perry and football veteran Tom Brady. For one party, VIPs took a boat from the island to a second, even fancier island for a feast of lobster, a private DJ concert and an open bar.

“You’re living this lifestyle of poverty, but you’re partying with Katy Perry?” she recalled thinking. “Why would you want to hang out with these celebrities if you’re so head-down trying to change the world?”

When Bankman-Fried and his band of crypto risk-takers moved to the Bahamas last year in a blitz of extravagant spending, they promised to remake the island paradise into a global capital of the new financial elite. Some Bahamians said they felt lucky to have an opportunity to work so close to a superstar.

Instead, Bankman-Fried stepped down as FTX’s CEO earlier this month after presiding over one of the fastest meltdowns of wealth in modern history. FTX, valued earlier this year at $32 billion, has been declared bankrupt, and his $16 billion personal fortune nosedived to zero in less than a week.

James Bromley, an FTX lawyer, said at a bankruptcy hearing Tuesday that Bankman-Fried had treated the company as his “personal fiefdom” before it all fell apart. “The emperor had no clothes,” he said.

The do-gooder movement that shielded Sam Bankman-Fried from scrutiny

In the Bahamas, many are anxiously waiting to see how the fallout from this legendary blunder will shape their lives. At a gate that workers use to enter Albany, the closely guarded enclave where Bankman-Fried and his top deputies shared a $40 million waterfront penthouse, one construction worker told a reporter on a recent morning that, if Bankman-Fried were still inside, “we would grab him and bring him out.”

A giant lawn at the center of the Albany, a gated luxury enclave in the Bahamas, featured a full-size replica statue of Wall Street’s Charging Bull. (Video: Obtained by The Post)

As investigators begin to piece together FTX’s financial wreckage, the Bahamas has emerged as a centerpiece for Bankman-Fried’s many contradictions — and fueled questions about why so many there and elsewhere had supported a company with so many warning signs.

FTX had called itself “the cleanest brand in crypto” and promised investors “High Returns, No Risk.” But FTX’s new chief, John J. Ray III, hired to clean up the mess, said in a recent legal filing that Bankman-Fried’s “very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals” in the Bahamas had spent lavishly on themselves while failing to track where billions of clients’ dollars were sent or stored.

Though FTX became one of the world’s biggest financial exchanges, rooted in a complex web of more than 130 now-bankrupt business entities, the team functioned like a dorm-room start-up, with no centralized lists of bank accounts or even employees, Ray said.

FTX spent clients’ funds on seaside homes for employees’ use and routed money to Bankman-Fried’s other company, the crypto trading firm Alameda Research, Ray said. Corporate reimbursements were often requested via an online chat box and approved by supervisors using “personalized emoji.” Only “a fraction” of customers’ money has been located and secured.

“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information,” said Ray, who once oversaw the liquidation of Enron, one of America’s most infamous corporate frauds.

In a letter to FTX employees on Tuesday, Bankman-Fried said he regretted “what happened to all of you” and tried to deflect blame onto external factors, such as a rush of withdrawals and a market crash, without acknowledging the reported misuse of customer funds. “You were my family. I’ve lost that, and our old…

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