Things got real for Sam Bankman–Fried last year when he was indicted. Things got real for Gabe Bankman-Fried last week when Sam’s former company, FTX, threatened Gabe with a subpoena for failing to cooperate with their investigation. It was, after all, Gabe’s first appearance in a legal filing associated with the collapse of his older brother’s $32 billion crypto empire—the precipitating event that capsized Gabe’s career, too.
Of course, it was S.B.F.’s meteoric success that super-charged his brother’s political career in the first place. Gabe was barely out of college, in 2019, when Sam founded FTX and began channeling hundreds of millions of dollars into politics and philanthropy. Sam envisioned a 50-year campaign for influence, and he entrusted Gabe to make it happen. The Kimbal to Sam’s Elon, Gabe would work to give away the fortune, running Sam’s political portfolio and setting up the family foundation that directed Sam’s personal giving. One person who has worked with the brothers said that Sam always struck them as “deferential” to his 28-year-old brother, with Gabe often taking meetings on Sam’s behalf.
Gabe has always impressed me with how he managed to keep a sense of perspective despite all the craziness as Sam rose. Since childhood, he’s been the more socially adept of the two brothers—“gregarious” as one person who knows him put it—but Gabe is more similar to Sam than he is different. They grew up as best friends in an unusually tight-knit family, sharing a love of “bughouse” chess—a team-based variant using multiple chessboards simultaneously—the Giants, and video games; attending the same middle-school math camps and, later, effective altruism conferences.