“Infinite” Jest

Sam Bankman-Fried seemed like a classic Michael Lewis character.
Sam Bankman-Fried seemed like a classic Michael Lewis character. Photo: Ray Tamarra/GC Images
William D. Cohan
October 15, 2023

Michael Lewis is a friend—we were colleagues at the old Vanity Fair for many years, shared some acquaintances, and I even interviewed him on stage at one of The Mooch’s SALT conferences in Las Vegas a few years back. It was wildly entertaining, thanks to Michael. But what I remember most from that event was how Michael was more than happy just to wing it and encouraged me to ask him whatever I wanted to ask, without hesitation or preparation. We last spoke in March 2022 for a piece I wrote in Puck about him and his views on the state of play on Wall Street. 

We also discussed his next book project, which seemed destined to be about Sam BankmanFried. Michael was off to one of Mooch’s SALT conferences in the Bahamas to interview S.B.F. on the stage, in April, as part of what turned out to be Michael’s months-long embedding for his new book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon. That was the same event where Zeke Faux, the Bloomberg reporter and author of Number Go Up, described Michael as “fawning” over S.B.F. during the interview. Back then, there was only the rise of S.B.F.; the fall would take another six months, in November 2022, when the whole FTX/Alameda charade exploded. It is now being litigated in a federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan, with expert reporting and brilliant analysis by my partners, Teddy Schleifer and Eriq Gardner

Michael’s plan, as he told me in March 2022, was to celebrate S.B.F. as the new, new thing—as he once famously dubbed Internet entrepreneur Jim Clark in one of his lesser canonical works. S.B.F., after all, seemed to be a classic Michael Lewis character in the same way that Michael Burry was because he could see the carnage of the financial system despite his prosthetic eye, or Billy Beane was after he evolved from five-tool prospect to the one general manager able to decipher the scrappy talents of underloved and underappreciated players, like Kevin Youkilis (i.e., “The Greek God of Walks”) and a late stage David Justice.