How World Economic Forum, Others are Hiding Their Past Ties with FTX
By Ariel Zilber, Thomas Barrabi and Lydia Moynihan
The shocking implosion of the FTX crypto exchange has become an embarrassment for a who’s who among global elites, with some issuing mea culpas — and others apparently scrambling to hide their ties to its disgraced, 30-year-old founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
Web archive sites show that the World Economic Forum — whose glitzy shindig in Davos, Switzerland, is a must-attend for billionaires and world leaders each year — had previously listed FTX as one of its “partners,” touting the Bahamas-based firm as a “cryptocurrency exchange built by traders, for traders.”
Bankman-Fried also was a speaker at Davos last May alongside luminaries such as Google financial chief Ruth Porat and Bill Winters, CEO of the London-based financial giant Standard Chartered. Nevertheless, WEF has since scrubbed any mention of FTX from its website in the days after the crypto exchange filed for bankruptcy.
“FTX was a World Economic Forum partner. In light of last week’s events, their partnership was suspended and they were removed from the Partners section of our website,” a spokesman for the Geneva-based organization headed by Klaus Schwab told The Post on Monday.
According to one WEF insider, Bankman-Fried likely landed on the group’s site because he donated cash to the group, in addition to his upcoming speaking gig.
The WEF has not commented on why it has deleted references to FTX.
“World Economic Forum survives on donations from outside organizations and companies that are typically aligned with their mission and politics,” the source told The Post.
The WEF isn’t the only group that has egg on its face from its cheerleading for FTX and Bankman-Fried, whose $16 billion fortune evaporated in a matter of days — a stunning collapse that has elicited comparisons to Lehman Brothers and Enron. Bankman-Fried is under federal investigation.
Photographs circulated online over the weekend showing former President Bill Clinton sitting next to Bankman-Fried on stage — along with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair — at an event in the Bahamas this past April.
The Post has sought comment from Clinton’s office.
Bankman-Fried appeared on stage with former President Bill Clinton and ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Bahamas in April.
While big financial firms like Sequoia Capital, SoftBank and BlackRock have revealed FTX losses in public filings, insiders say wealthier individuals bought in privately, typically plowing money into FTX through family offices.
“This is like a Madoff situation … almost everyone in tech and Hollywood invested in this thing,” one investor close to FTX told The Post. “Now no one wants to admit to it.”
One insider told The Post that Jan Koum — the Ukrainian billionaire who co-founded WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014 — bought a stake through his family office. Reps for Koum didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Twitter users promoted a video over the weekend showing CNBC investing maven Jim Cramer touting Bankman-Fried as “the JP Morgan of his generation.” The Post has reached out to Cramer and CNBC seeking comment.
CNBC’s Jim Cramer once referred to Bankman-Fried as “the JP Morgan of his generation.”
Kevin O’Leary — the “Shark Tank” investor who also admitted he has taken a bath on an FTX bet — posted a mea culpa on his Twitter account over the weekend, telling his 951,000 followers: “As an investor, you will never get it right every time. You will make some mistakes. Sometimes big ones like FTX.”
Tom Brady and now-ex-wife Gisele Bündchen are among FTX’s most recognizable victims. After starring in several TV commercials promoting the crypto exchange, they got an equity stake in FTX that’s now likely worthless. Golden State Warriors basketball star Steph Curry was also given an equity stake in FTX. Curry, Brady and Bündchen were not immediately available for comment.
Elsewhere, Bankman-Fried’s FTX earlier this year collaborated with former White House advisor Anthony Scaramucci’s SALT conference to launch a star-studded cryptocurrency summit in the Bahamas.
Lauren Remington Platt, Sam Bankman-Fried and Gisele Bündchen in April.
“We are thrilled to welcome FTX as SALT’s premier global partner and to launch Crypto Bahamas. Sam and the FTX team are building the most important company in crypto and the financial industry more broadly,” Scaramucci said at the time.
The Salt Crypto Bahamas Conference included the now-infamous scene in which Bankman-Fried shared the stage with supermodel Bündchen to talk about sustainability practices within the crypto sector.
As Bankman-Fried’s estimated fortunate ballooned as high as $26 billion during the pandemic-era cryptocurrency boom, the FTX founder used the windfall to cultivate cozy relationships in media.
Bankman-Fried was an early financial booster for Semafor, the blue-chip news startup co-founded by New York Times veteran Ben Smith and former Bloomberg CEO Justin B. Smith.
Sam Bankman-Fried dines with Anthony Scaramucci and Kevin O’Leary at the SALT NY Conference.
The ex-billionaire poured money into Semafor in a Series A fundraising round that also drew contributions from media types such as The Atlantic chairman emeritus David G. Bradley and The Information founder Jessica Lessin.
Semafor mentioned its ties to Bankman-Fried in its reporting on FTX’s abrupt bankruptcy filing last week. The outlet also addressed its dealings with the FTX founder in a story revealing Bankman-Fried wanted to start a competitor to publishing platform Substack, staffed with his “favorite writers.”
“We closed our seed round in May and received all investments in full in USD. While we are monitoring the evolving situation closely, we don’t anticipate an impact on our financial outlook or our business,” Semafor spokesperson Meera Pattni said in a statement.
The Post has reached out to Semafor for further comment.
Bankman-Fried’s family foundation also gave a $5 million grant to ProPublica earlier this year to “support investigations into ongoing questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, biosecurity and public health preparedness.”
Bankman-Fried at a House hearing in May.
In June, Puck News reported that Bankman-Fried was hiring staffers with experience in journalism to advise him on media relations strategy for his pet projects, including future pandemic preparedness. His aides purportedly took meetings with “several newsrooms” on potential nonprofit and for-profit partnerships — all funded by Bankman-Fried.
Bankman-Fried was open about his ambitions to become a political kingmaker — once declaring that he planned to spend a whopping $1 billion in the 2024 presidential election cycle. He later walked back that brazen claim, describing it as a “dumb quote.”
The disgraced executive may have dialed back the extent of his planned political spending, but he was still a major booster of left-leaning candidates and causes during the 2022 midterm elections. He was the Democratic Party’s second-biggest donor, trailing only George Soros.
Bankman-Fried spent an estimated $36 million on political donations during the stretch run — most of which fueled Democrat-tied causes, according to the Financial Times.
The WEF’s ties to Bankman-Fried are likely to fuel further suspicions of the Switzerland-based organization.
Some $27 million went to Protect Our Future, a super PAC backing Democratic candidates committed to pandemic prevention. His spending included a disastrous $11 million investment in the campaign of Carrick Flynn, a first-time House candidate in Oregon who failed to advance past the primary.
Bankman-Fried’s sudden downfall has rankled some within the Democratic Party who expected a major influx of donor cash in the months ahead.
“Sam didn’t live up to his commitments,” one Democratic lobbyist told the outlet.