How Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto company FTX went bankrupt : Planet Money Sam Bankman-Fried built a reputation as the one reliable crypto bro. But within the span of days, his empire came crashing down. What the rise and fall of crypto's 30-year-old elder statesman says about the story of crypto so far.

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Sam Bankman-Fried and the spectacular fall of his crypto empire, FTX

Sam Bankman-Fried and the spectacular fall of his crypto empire, FTX

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 08: CEO of FTX Sam Bankman-Fried testifies during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

So far the world of crypto has existed mostly on the periphery of the economy; what happens in the crypto market hasn't much affected the rest of the world. But one man was determined to change that.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old founder of crypto companies FTX and Alameda Research, made billions in just a few years, and in the process, became the face of respectability in an industry usually associated with less-than-respectable characters.

He was one of the few crypto nerds who broke through into popular culture. He, and FTX, were everywhere: he was on the cover of magazines like Fortune and Forbes, in Superbowl ads with and in ads in Vogue and The New Yorker; comedian Larry David and football star Tom Brady did ads for the company, and the stadium where the Miami Heat play was renamed the FTX Arena. And Bankman-Fried built a reputation as an elder statesman of crypto. When many crypto companies were struggling, he publicly declared that he would help bail them out.

That is, until last week, when it was revealed that the lion's share of Bankman-Fried's empire was built on FTT — the token sold by FTX, conjured out of thin air. The revelation shook investors and clients; they wanted out. The value of his companies plummeted, and there was no one to lend him a hand.

Bankman-Fried's companies — FTX and Alameda Research — filed for bankruptcy on November 11th.

We chart his rise to the top of the crypto market — with effective branding and a seemingly solid reputation — his very recent fall, and what it all means for the rest of the crypto world?

Music: "Stranger," "Cool Cats," and "Can't Get Enough."

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