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Sam Bankman-Fried has handed out some $750 million in lifelines to BlockFi and Voyager after the two lenders went insolvent amid the current crypto crash, and he has made clear that more bailouts might be on the way from his companies FTX and Alameda Research.
His emergency aid has earned him comparisons to J.P. Morgan during the crash of 1907 and to Atlas holding up the entire crypto world. He's been called the industry's "savior"—both earnestly and cynically.
But he doesn't want to be the only one offering bailouts.
"I would love it if other people did that," Bankman-Fried said on the latest episode of Decrypt's gm podcast. "I would be super happy for others to take that on instead of me. The reason that I have been doing it, frankly, is because it doesn't seem clear to me that there are others who are stepping up and doing that."
SBF, as he's known to all in the crypto world, even says that FTX has reached out to other (presumably healthy) crypto companies—to "everyone we could in the ecosystem," in his words—looking to partner up on bailout deals.
"In general, 'No' was the answer," he said, "or rather, ‘Yes’ followed by, 'Wait, that company looks like there might be a hole in the balance sheet and maybe there was some mismanagement.' And we’re like, I don’t know what you were expecting, dude. Why do you think they're looking for a bailout? So our sense has been that there really, to a disappointing extent, haven't been that many people who have actually been game to pitch in here."
Bankman-Fried didn't name names, but the list of well-capitalized players in the industry healthy enough to bail out ailing companies is pretty short.
Decrypt reached out to some of the big deep-pocketed names, including crypto exchanges Coinbase and Crypto.com, crypto financial services provider Galaxy, and Meta (formerly Facebook), to ask if they or their venture arms had entertained bailout deals. None of those immediately replied to Decrypt's request for comment.
A spokesperson from Genesis, the crypto trading and lending subsidiary of Barry Silbert's Digital Currency Group, declined to comment.
Binance co-founder He Yi did respond. Just last week, Binance announced she will oversee its $7.5 billion venture arm. He Yi said, "We are currently working on a number of deals which we will announce in due time. We are taking our time to invest in the most capable, long-term founders who will shape the future of the industry. Projects that are here to stay for the long term will benefit both our industry and users. We need companies that can really create long-term value in the industry."
Binance hasn't announced any bailout deals. But CEO Changpeng Zhao, speaking on the gm podcast last month, said he's been eyeing them.
"Many companies are short on money, that doesn’t mean most of them are bad companies," CZ said. "And those things we are perfectly willing to do. And we’re looking at a high number of deals like that... And some of them are actually good deals. So I think you will see that we will be investing, bailing out, saving multiple projects."
Was CZ among the calls SBF made to industry peers asking for help on a bailout offer? It's difficult to imagine that phone call—especially as FTX's average daily trading volume has caught up to Coinbase and has Binance in its sights next.
And as SBF replied on the gm podcast when asked if the big exchange race is now between FTX, Coinbase, and Binance: "Yeah, that sounds about right to me. Obviously there's push and pull here, and things do morph a little bit over time, but I think that's probably about roughly right in terms of, as of now, where the biggest centers are in the exchange space."
Listen and subscribe to the gm podcast wherever you get your podcasts.