SBF used FTX customer funds to lend billions.
The FTX crypto empire of Sam Bankman-Fried collapsed nearly overnight.

The 30-year-old known as "SBF" was once crypto's wunderkind, helming a multi-billion dollar empire and dolling out millions in political donations. But risky management and questionable decisions have led to his vaporized fortune and tarnished reputation.

SBF's Rise to Crypto Stardom

  • Launched quant trading firm Alameda Research after leaving Jane Street in 2017
  • Founded FTX exchange in 2019, touting it as safe and regulatory compliant
  • Expanded aggressively via acquisitions (LedgerX, Blockfolio, naming rights, etc.)
  • Built vast political lobbying influence
  • Peak net worth estimated at $32 billion in March 2022

At just 30 years old, SBF was the face of crypto's potential and his exchange FTX a rising juggernaut. Few expected what happened next.

Seeds of FTX's Demise Emerge

Behind the incredible growth, trouble signs would emerge that jeopardized the house of cards SBF had built:

  • FTX relied heavily on its sister quant trading firm Alameda Research - providing loans and liquidity
  • Alameda managed assets extremely risky with low collateral and high leverage
  • FTX funds were used to "lend" billions to Alameda to fuel risky bets
  • Industry rumors emerged of FTX and Alameda's poor internal controls

As cryptocurrency prices plummeted in 2022, cracks began to show through the slick veneer of SBF's blossoming crypto empire.

A Liquidity Crunch Dooms Rescue

With markets unravelling earlier this year, Alameda found itself underwater on billions in loans funded by FTX:

  • Alameda couldn't pay off debts as crypto collateral plummetted
  • FTX secretly lent additional customer funds to try and bail out Alameda
  • The wall started crumbling when rival exchange Binance agreed then backed off a rescue deal
  • SBF asked for $8 billion but cited regulators in getting cold feet
  • With no contingency financing, an immediate liquidity crunch forced FTX into bankruptcy on Nov 11

The failed Binance buyout left FTX facing an acute cash shortage to process withdrawals. With no backup options, SBF had to initiate bankruptcy despite his company once being valued at $32 billion.

Recriminations and Investigations Abound

In the aftermath, stunned investors and former cheerleaders are pointing fingers at the unique management structure between FTX and Alameda:

  • Industry analysts critique poor internal controls that concealed financial risks
  • Investors allege SBF misled them on solvency risks when fundraising earlier rounds
  • Regulators in multiple countries are launching formal investigations, including Bahamas, USA, Canada

While facts are still emerging, the consensus is clear failures in risk management and ethical breaches spurred FTX's failure. And investigators seem determined to uncover whether anything criminal occurred.

SBF himself claimed no malicious intent, but admitted to making mistakes in handling company funds. The verdict on both his empire's rise and sudden demise remains hotly debated.

Conclusion: Legacy Still Unfolding

The full legacy of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX is still materializing, but immense fallout has already ensued:

  • Billions in investor funds in limbo facing likely severe losses
  • Confidence in cryptocurrency markets suffering from a "Lehman moment"
  • Crypto regulations potentially accelerated from concerns on consumer protections
  • SBF's reputation morphing overnight from genius leader to possible fraudster

While the saga continues unfolding after this unprecedented corporate collapse, tighter oversight and constraints on the crypto ecosystem appear imminent. The long-term implications for digital assets remain murky amidst the smoldering ruins of SBF's meteoric rise and epic fall from grace.