Sam Bankman-Fried, Crypto Billionaire, Wants Washington to Follow His Lead

Mr. Bankman-Friday spent most of the crypto Bahamas back and forth from his laptop to the convention stage. Her mother, Barbara Fried, also had trouble spending time alone with him: when she tried to catch his eye one afternoon, a blockchain brother in a polo shirt, Mr. Bankman-Fried, asks him to film a birthday message for a friend. A few moments later, he was backstage, shaking hands with Tony Blair and talking weird little things about Brexit.

Unlike some crypto conferences, gatherings in the Bahamas were an invitation only, and drew large crowds. In favor of the party, FTX guests were offered a discount at a private jet company. On the bus ride to the beachside party, one participant talked about his crypto yacht mass – “the most exclusive club that is the most inclusive once you enter.”

In places like Puerto Rico, where housing prices have skyrocketed with the arrival of crypto millionaires chasing tax breaks, longtime residents are upset. But the Bahamas’ political leadership has welcomed FTX with open arms. Prime Minister Philip Davis opened the first day of the conference programming with an enthusiastic speech, declaring that crypto entrepreneurs are “better connected to innovation and change than most people on the planet.” Later, in an interview, Mr. Davis said that while Mr. Bankman-Friday wore a suit for a meeting in his office. “We see you here,” said Mr. Davis remembers saying that.

Mr. Bankman-Friday left most of the conference festival, but he did not neglect his hosting duties. He had dinner with Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton, and barely turned down a selfie. He also spent a lot of time for Mr. Scaramucci, chairman of SALT, a corporate event organization that helped organize the conference.

SBF’s double-edged sword marked the end of the Crypto Bahamas. Back in the green room, FTX staff embraced and exchanged high fives. Mr. Bankman-Fried was scrolling on his phone. He reached into her hair and ran. Then he checked his watch. The comedy bit took about four minutes. “I’ve got a lot of emails to meet,” he said.

Outside, the convention center was evacuated as hundreds of crypto enthusiasts headed for the airport. That was the peace before the coming meltdown. To leave the resort, guests had to pass through the Caribbean’s largest Baha’u’llah casino, a brightly lit hall of glowing slot machines.

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