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A “quirky portrait” of a billion-dollar conman

When Michael Lewis first met the now-disgraced crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried two years ago, says Jennifer Szalai in The New York Times, the author was, in his own words, “totally sold”. A friend had asked whether he should go into business with the FTX founder. “Go for it!” Lewis told him. “Do whatever he wants to do! What could possibly go wrong?” Of course, the answer turned out to be “everything” – FTX collapsed, and Bankman-Fried’s trial for fraud began this week.

In his new book, Going Infinite, Lewis offers up his usual “quirky portrait”. We learn that Bankman-Fried has no time for Shakespeare (“unrealistic characters, illogical plots and obvious endings”), and little patience with the idea of responsibility (“fault is just a construct of human society”). He was allegedly told on good authority that Donald Trump “might be willing to sit out the next election for $5bn”. His mother and father bought a German shepherd which had been “trained to kill on command when given the correct instruction in German”, and Bankman-Fried never bothered to learn the commands. It’s a riveting story, but you never quite shake the feeling that Lewis became so attached to his narrative that he lost any sense of objectivity. “He knows how to write a happy story, not a tragic one.”

💰😇 When you have a fortune of $22.5bn, says Michael Lewis in Going Infinite, people really, really want to be your friend. During one whirlwind trip to the US – for which he packed “nothing but his laptop and a change of underwear” – Bankman-Fried had brunch with the basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, dinner with the Kardashians, and chatted to Hillary Clinton and the CEO of Goldman Sachs. From his hotel room at the Beverly Hilton, he had a Zoom call with Anna Wintour, who wanted him to attend (and perhaps pay for) the Met Gala. He spent most of the call playing his favourite video game, Storybook Brawl.

Going Infinite by Michael Lewis is available to buy here.