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Former FTX spokesman Kevin O’Leary defends endorsement of crypto firm

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“Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary defended his position as a spokesperson for bankrupt crypto firm FTX on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.

“That is America. The justice system provides the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise,” O’Leary responded when asked why he didn’t more stridently condemn Bankman-Fried. The previous FTX CEO was arrested by Bahamian authorities earlier this week, pending extradition and trial to face charges in U.S. federal court.

O’Leary was pressed on his paid FTX ambassadorship, enterprise capital profession and his defense of Sam Bankman-Fried days before his arrest, by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Joe Kernen and Becky Quick.

Kernen minced no words with the Canadian businessman. “Are you continue to calling yourself a enterprise investor?” the Squawk Box host asked O’Leary. “Your enterprise investing was your name having the ability to used as a spokesperson?”

“Joe, bad news. I actually have a really large advisory business,” O’Leary retorted. Kernen continued to press O’Leary. “Are you continue to conflating money you bought paid by FTX that you just lost, or did you really invest a few of your personal funds?”

“Money is fungible,” O’Leary replied.

“So that you didn’t. Once more, you are a enterprise investor who ventured your name,” Kernan said. “You didn’t even pay your personal money on the taxes.”

O’Leary continued to return to his lost $10 million investment in FTX, which was given to him as a part of his compensation for appearing as a paid spokesperson. Traditional enterprise investing typically involves a fund or individual investing their very own funds in a business.

“That they had to open that round for me,” O’Leary said. “I actually have 54 corporations in my portfolio at once.”

“Kevin, you might be an actor on this drama, and also you had a front-row seat to Bankman-Fried up until the very end,” Sorkin said. “What do you think that happened? Do you think that this was a fraud?”

“I haven’t got the facts. [New FTX CEO] John Ray doesn’t have them yet. He’ll get them,” O’Leary responded. “I’m searching through my records. I’m willing to fund a forensic account of our accounts.”

Watch CNBC's full discussion with Kevin O'Leary about his relationship with FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried

“There are quite a lot of bad things which were alleged here, and quite a lot of them are going to be true, likely,” he added.

But at the identical time, O’Leary said he wasn’t inclined to indulge outraged investors on Twitter.

“I understand that the herd is indignant,” the businessman, who can also be a CNBC contributor, said.

Sorkin also observed that, versus Tom Brady or Larry David, investors might expect that O’Leary knew higher than most the way to understand if FTX was problematic or not.

“Corporations advertise, and so they do it this manner,” O’Leary said.

Kernen also pressed O’Leary on his rapid about-face on bitcoin.

“Did that conversion coincide with the $15 million you bought from FTX?” Kernen asked. “No,” O’Leary said, stating that his bitcoin investing began years before his ambassadorship for FTX, in 2018.

But Sorkin pointed to a 2019 television appearance and noted that O’Leary called bitcoin “garbage.”

“Then I’m mistaken about that,” O’Leary said. “The purpose is, it was long before I became a paid spokesperson. Long before.”

“I like getting sandpapered by you guys day-after-day. It’s implausible,” O’Leary concluded.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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