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


Mr. Bankman-Fried spent much of Crypto Bahamas shuttling backwards and forwards from his laptop to the convention stage. Even his mother, Barbara Fried, had trouble getting time alone with him: As she tried to catch his eye one afternoon, a blockchain bro in a polo shirt cornered Mr. Bankman-Fried, asking him to film a birthday message for a friend. A number of minutes later, he was backstage, shaking hands with Tony Blair and making awkward small speak about Brexit.

Unlike some crypto conferences, the gathering within the Bahamas was an invitation-only affair, and it drew a high-rolling crowd. As a celebration favor, FTX’s guests were offered discounts at a personal jet company. On the bus ride to a beachside party, one attendee talked up his crypto yacht collective — “essentially the most exclusive club that’s essentially the most inclusive when you’re in.”

In places like Puerto Rico, the arrival of crypto millionaires chasing tax breaks has sent housing prices skyrocketing, outraging longtime residents. However the political leadership of the Bahamas has welcomed FTX with open arms. Prime Minister Philip Davis began the primary day of conference programming with an enthusiastic speech, declaring that crypto entrepreneurs are “higher wired for innovation and alter than most individuals on the planet.” Later, in an interview, Mr. Davis said he’d been pleasantly surprised when Mr. Bankman-Fried wore a suit to a gathering at his office. “We wish you here,” Mr. Davis recalled telling him.

Mr. Bankman-Fried skipped a lot of the conference festivities, but he didn’t neglect his hosting duties. He had dinner with Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton, and barely turned down a selfie. He also made loads of time for Mr. Scaramucci, the chairman of SALT, a company events organization that helped placed on the conference.

SBF’s double act with the Mooch marked the top of Crypto Bahamas. Back within the green room, FTX staffers exchanged hugs and high fives. Mr. Bankman-Fried was scrolling on his phone. He stretched and ran his hands through his hair. Then he checked his watch. The comedy bit had taken about 4 minutes. “I’ve got a number of emails to make amends for,” he said.

Outside, the convention center was emptying, as a whole lot of crypto enthusiasts headed for the airport. It was the calm before the approaching meltdown. To depart the resort, guests needed to walk through the Baha Mar casino, the most important within the Caribbean, a brightly lit hall of flashing slot machines.

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