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S.B.F. and an ‘O.C.’ Star Walk Into a Hotel…

Why was it was largely people like Ben McKenzie, who existed outside TradFi (as the kids say these days), that spotted S.B.F.’s antics early on?
Why was it was largely people like Ben McKenzie, who existed outside TradFi (as the kids say these days), that spotted S.B.F.’s antics early on? Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
June 21, 2023

Nearly a year ago, on July 20, the actor-turned-crypto-skeptic-cum-author Ben McKenzie met with Sam Bankman-Fried at the One Hotel, near Central Park, for an interview for his forthcoming book. At the time, S.B.F. was at the peak of his powers at FTX—the unbathed alleged billionaire prodigy who had the whole world believing his hype. He was in town for media interviews with Bloomberg, and with Fortune, for what would turn out to be the infamous cover story, The Next Warren Buffet? “I remember looking through the glass at this guy who I’d never met, who was the ‘J.P. Morgan of Crypto,’ according to The Mooch, anyway. And I was just kind of fascinated by him,” McKenzie recalled to me. “A 30-year-old guy, comes from quite an intellectual pedigree: parents are professors of law at Stanford. He went to MIT. Jane Street Capital. Now he’s King of the World.”