As Sam Bankman-Fried stares down the barrel of a 25 year prison sentence, most of his former FTX colleagues have done their best to stay out of the limelight. But one former executive of the collapsed crypto exchange is now raising eyebrows for his extravagant purchases. 

Patrick Gruhn, the former head of FTX Europe, recently spent $1.5 million to acquire a gold watch found on the corpse of a victim of the Titanic, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The watch originally belonged to John Jacob Astor, an American business magnate considered to be the richest passenger on the doomed 1912 transatlantic voyage. 

Gruhn told the Journal he bought the watch as a gift for his wife, due to the kinship he felt with the Astor family—which set out from Germany in the eighteenth century to find fortune in America. John Jacob Astor, the family dynasty’s founder, made his fortune by establishing a monopoly in the North American fur trade, smuggling opium into China, and scooping up cheap New York real estate. 

Like the late businessman whose watch he now owns, FTX’s Gruhn was also born in Germany before settling in the United States. He too has amassed a fortune—but one that has come with a fair amount of legal scrutiny. 

The watch in question. Image: Henry Aldridge & Son

In November 2021, FTX spent $376 million to acquire a Swiss crypto firm run by Gruhn and his business partners, which would become FTX Europe. 

According to a lawsuit later filed by FTX’s bankruptcy estate, however, the firm had yet to operate and only boasted a “business plan”; further, no due diligence was completed by FTX’s attorneys about Gruhn’s firm, before the acquisition was completed. 

Over the next two years, according to the same lawsuit, Gruhn sent over $4 million from FTX Europe to Kephas, a company he personally owned, for unspecified consulting services.

During that same period, per the FTX suit, Gruhn used Kephas to purchase a custom, $146,000 bulletproof Cadillac Escalade; he also used funds from the company to pay the salaries of a butler, a full-time chef, a housekeeper, and multiple estate managers, all of whom worked at his 700-acre private home in La Pine, Oregon. 


The suit, filed last summer, sought to compel Gruhn and his partners to pay back the huge sums they received from FTX—which allegedly consisted of misappropriated FTX customer funds. After Gruhn and his partners filed a countersuit, both sides settled in February, however, with FTX Europe’s former heads agreeing to buy back the entity for roughly $33 million. 

Gruhn continues to live in Oregon, where he purchased eight properties during the period he led FTX Europe. He's now building a crypto derivative exchange in Europe, according to the report, and operates a Catholic television network in Germany.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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