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Inside the Fall of S.B.F.’s Big Cool Buddy

Ryan Salame always stood out as the linen-and-loafered bro among the Math Camp crowd that surrounded S.B.F.
Ryan Salame always stood out as the linen-and-loafered bro among the Math Camp crowd that surrounded S.B.F. Photo: Gillian Jones/The Berkshire Eagle
Theodore Schleifer
September 12, 2023

By last summer, the twenty-something billionaire crypto executive and emerging man-about-Washington, Ryan Salame, had been looking for a way out as a top executive at FTX. He felt exhausted by the long days, was anxious to spend more time in the U.S., and was continually butting heads with other FTX executives. In October, Salame finally pulled the trigger. His decision to resign was never announced, or reported, but it was more than a year in the making: He had been somewhat withdrawn ever since moving to the Bahamas in late 2021, in what was intended to be a “retirement” for one of Sam Bankman-Fried’s key deputies after amassing a miraculous fortune, before S.B.F. moved the entire company there.

Salame always stood out as the linen-and-loafered bro among the Math Camp crowd that surrounded S.B.F. He wasn’t exactly an effective altruist, the prevailing ideology among the core FTX set, but he was drawn to power and had a taste for nice things. Salame, as I’ve reported over the years, was personally a Romney Republican, and someone who wouldn’t be caught dead at some lame G.O.P. fundraising event. But his infatuation with Sam was undeniable. And so when S.B.F. and the rest of the E.A.s, including Sam’s brother Gabe, and the top Bankman-Fried aide Michael Sadowsky, saw an opportunity for the movement to influence conservative thought leadership—namely, by electing Republicans who would counter Trump, stave off nuclear war, and yeah, who were crypto-friendly, too—Salame played ball.