FTX Founder Sam Bankman Fried: From Crypto King to 25 Years in Prison



  • Sam Bankman Fried's sentencing to 25 years in prison in March 2024 marked a dramatic fall from grace for the FTX founder, once hailed as a crypto king with a net worth of $22.5 billion.
  • The collapse of FTX in November 2022 triggered a significant downturn in the crypto market, plummeting its valuation below $1 trillion and affecting over a million creditors.
  • Venture capital investment in crypto plummeted from $6.12 billion in Q1 2022 to $704 million by Q3 2022, reflecting a sharp decline in investor confidence after the FTX bankruptcy.


The rise and fall of FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried: from pioneering crypto mogul to a 25-year prison sentence, shaking the cryptocurrency world and investor confidence.




In November 2022, the crypto world was shaken by the collapse of FTX, leading to the resignation of its founder, Sam Bankman Fried, and the company’s bankruptcy filing. The downfall began with a CoinDesk report that unveiled questionable financial dealings at Alameda Research, closely tied to FTX. Sam Bankman Fried, accused of misappropriating billions in customer funds, saw his and the company’s fortunes take a severe hit, causing an $8 billion loss in the market.


This event drastically affected the crypto market, which saw its valuation dip below $1 trillion. As a major figure in the financial world, FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried was arrested in the Bahamas and extradited to the U.S., facing serious fraud charges from the U.S. Attorney and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).


Despite his efforts to defend himself, Bankman Fried’s explanations fell short against the mounting evidence and witness accounts. His situation worsened when Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang, his former associates, pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

After being temporarily freed on a $250 million bond, Bankman Fried’s bail was revoked in August 2023 due to allegations of leaking confidential documents. In November 2023, he was convicted on multiple counts of fraud, and on March 28, 2024, the FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried was sentenced to 25 years in prison and required to pay $11 billion in restitution.




FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried was raised in the affluent San Francisco Bay area of California, where both of his parents were professors at the renowned Stanford Law School. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he majored in physics and minored in mathematics, graduating in 2014.


During his time at MIT, he became involved with “effective altruism,” a movement influenced by philosopher Peter Singer’s utilitarian ideas. This approach encourages building wealth to maximize positive impact, prioritizing causes that significantly help or save lives. A meeting with an influential Oxford grad student from the movement inspired him to dedicate his mathematical talents to the pursuit of philanthropy.


However, this commitment to effective altruism, while noble in intent, arguably led to his downfall later on, as it justified risky financial decisions that ultimately compromised the integrity of his businesses.




After three years at Jane Street Capital, where he focused on trading stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), Sam Bankman Fried left to pursue greater risks with the aim of earning more, quickly identifying cryptocurrency as his path to rapid wealth. Starting with Bitcoin, he capitalized on the price differences between Asia and the US, buying low and selling high. This venture led him to co-found Alameda Research in 2017, a quantitative trading firm with an arbitrage model centered on digital assets. At its peak, the firm sometimes made as much as a million dollars a day.


In 2019, Sam Bankman Fried expanded his crypto empire by founding FTX, a cryptocurrency derivatives platform offering incentives for using its in-house FTX token (FTT). Backed by Alameda Research’s expertise in market-making and significant holdings, FTX aimed to create a uniquely efficient crypto marketplace by seamlessly integrating exchange, brokerage, and market-making capabilities.


By 2021, Forbes hailed him as the world’s wealthiest young billionaire, with a net worth of $22.5 billion, placing him 32nd on The Forbes 400 list.


Bankman Fried’s influence extended beyond the financial sector. He was not only a crypto mogul but also a significant political donor, contributing millions to U.S. campaigns, including Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential run, and became the second-largest individual donor to Democrats during the 2022 midterms.




Until October 2022, Sam Bankman Fried hadn’t disclosed any financial issues or the imminent bankruptcy risk facing FTX. The situation began to unravel on November 2, when it was revealed that a large portion of FTX’s liquidity was in its proprietary FTT token, over which the exchange had control. The scenario worsened when Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, CEO of competitor Binance, announced on November 6 his plan to sell off Binance’s FTT holdings. This decision, influenced by concerns raised in a CoinDesk report about Alameda Research’s significant investment in FTT, caused FTT’s price to plummet, impacting the wider cryptocurrency market.


Zhao’s move, partly motivated by lessons from the Terra Luna crash and opposition to industry lobbying, precipitated a rapid decline in FTT’s value. He also advised against using tokens as collateral, further influencing the market’s response.

Binance initially expressed interest in acquiring FTX through a nonbinding agreement but withdrew after discovering the depth of FTX’s financial troubles. At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and CFTC initiated investigations into potential misuse of customer funds by both FTX and Alameda Research.


The value of FTT collapsed from $25 to less than $2 in just a week, heralding FTX’s downfall. Bankman Fried attempted to raise emergency funds to salvage FTX, but shortly thereafter, between $1 billion and $2 billion in customer funds disappeared. FTX’s announcement of investigating “unauthorized transactions” followed the detection of large withdrawals from its wallets. These events led to the bankruptcy filing of FTX, Alameda Research, and related entities on November 11, 2022.


FTX Token

(Source: CoinMarketCap)




At its peak, FTX was valued at $32 billion, with FTT capitalization at $14 billion. However, concerns about its sustainability led to a liquidity crisis and eventual bankruptcy, affecting over a million creditors​​.


Post-FTX collapse, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies experienced a significant downturn. The overall crypto market cap plunged from $3 trillion in November 2021 to a two-year low of $796 billion. It has since recovered to above $2.6 trillion, highlighting the market’s resilience and adaptability​​.


Venture capital investment in crypto firms, which peaked at $6.12 billion in Q1 2022, dropped to $704 million by Q3 2022. This decline underscores a broader trend of reduced investor confidence in the crypto space following the FTX crisis​​.


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