Say what you will about author Michael Lewis, but he does have a knack for finding interesting characters to write about.
The latest is Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of failed crypto exchange FTX who’s accused of running “one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history.” Lewis’s latest book, “Going Infinite,” follows the rise and fall of the man known as SBF, and comes out Tuesday — the same day Bankman-Fried’s trial starts in federal court in New York City.
CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview with Lewis on Sunday night, in which Lewis delved deep into Bankman-Fried’s history and psyche, and revealed juicy tidbits from the book, which he compiled from meeting with SBF more than 100 times over two years. Here are five of the weirdest stories about Bankman-Fried that he told “60 Minutes”:
SBF played a videogame during his first TV interview
Lewis said that during Bankman-Fried’s very first TV appearance, when FTX was gaining notoriety, he was playing a videogame through it all. “If you watch the clip you can see his eyes going back and forth, back (laughs) and forth. It’s because he’s trying to win his videogame at the same time he’s on the air,” Lewis said, according to a CBS News transcript.
The fashion icon vs. the schlub
In perhaps the most fish-out-of-water story ever, Lewis said Vogue editor-in-chief and fashion icon Anna Wintour wanted Bankman-Fried — who rarely wore anything other than shorts and a T-shirt and who Lewis called “the worst-dressed person in America… the worst-dressed billionaire in the history of billionaires” — to sponsor the swanky Met Gala. “Sam was a social experiment,” Lewis said. He had “seemingly infinite dollars” and was willing to give it away. “Everybody comes to the trough,” Lewis said, adding that when Bankman-Fried took a Zoom meeting with Wintour, he had no idea who she was.
SBF and Tom Brady were buddies. For real.
Lewis said Bankman-Fried paid athletes and celebrities ridiculous amounts of money for endorsements, including $55 million to now-former NFL quarterback Tom Brady for “20 hours a year for three years.”
Surprisingly — or perhaps not, given the $55 million — Brady “adored him,” Lewis said.
“I think Tom Brady thought he was just a really interesting person. I think he liked to hear what he had to say,” Lewis said. “And he really liked Tom Brady. And Sam wasn’t, like, a big sports person… The nerd of all nerds. (laughs) Like, even the nerds don’t hang out with this nerd, he’s such a nerd. (laughs) The quarterback somehow likes him. And he somehow likes the quarterback.”
FTX’s collapse and the subsequent fraud charges apparently changed Brady’s mind. “Brady was, I think, crushed,” Lewis said. “And I think as time has gone by, and he’s ceased to get a really good explanation about what’s happened — I think he’s just like, ‘He tricked me. I’m angry. I don’t wanna have anything to do with it anymore.’”
SBF wanted to pay Trump not to run
Bankman-Fried has donated many millions of dollars to both Republicans and Democrats, but he was so worried about Donald Trump — who he considered a threat to democracy — that he considered paying Trump not to run for president in 2024, Lewis said.
“Sam’s thinking, ‘We could pay Donald Trump not to run for president. Like, how much would it take?’” Lewis said. “So he did get an answer. He was floated — there was a number that was kicking around. And the number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam about this was $5 billion, Sam was not sure that number came directly from Trump.”
Those talks never went anywhere, obviously, and Bankman-Fried was unsure about the legality of paying Trump not to run, Lewis said. But those discussions reportedly stopped when FTX collapsed and Bankman-Fried lost almost his entire fortune.
Jail wouldn’t be so bad, if…
Bankman-Fried faces more than 100 years in prison if convicted on a multitude of federal fraud and conspiracy charges. When asked what Bankman-Fried fears most about potentially being imprisoned, Lewis had a surprising answer: “Not having the internet.”
“Now that sounds crazy, but I do think that if he had the internet, he could survive jail forever,” Lewis said. “Without having a constant stream of information to react to — I think he may go mad.”
Lewis added that if given the choice of living in a $39 million penthouse in the Bahamas without internet, or be in jail but with internet access, “there’s no question in my mind he’d take the jail.”