Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, has been following FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried for the past six months to write his next book. And while the potential ending of Lewis’s book has obviously changed in the past week since FTX’s $32 billion implosion, Lewis is already shopping around the movie rights, according to a new report from The Ankler.
Matthew Snyder from talent agency CAA, which represents Lewis, reportedly sent around an email on Friday to Hollywood bigwigs explaining that Lewis has been interviewing Bankman-Fried for months. Lewis and Bankman-Fried have been talking about everything from the FTX founder’s childhood to his first successes on Wall Street, and it seems certain that Lewis will have the inside story on everything that happened before FTX filed for bankruptcy on Friday.
“Of course, the events of the past week have provided a dramatic surprise ending to the story. It also highlighted the rivalry between Bankman-Fried and Binance head Chnagpeng [sic] Zhao. Michael likens them to the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader of crypto,” the email by Snyder reads, according to a screenshot published by The Ankler.
“Michael hasn’t written anything yet, but the story has become too big for us to wait. Let me know if I’ve piqued your interest,” the email continued.
The misspelled reference to Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, or CZ as he’s often known, refers to how CZ’s actions sent FTX into a tailspin. CZ bought a 20% stake in FTX back in 2019 but he had a falling out with Bankman-Fried two years later, according to Reuters. When Bankman-Fried bought out CZ’s stake in FTX in mid-2021 it was in large part with FTX’s native token, FTT. CZ sold $580 million of that token last week, indicating little faith in its value and sending the financial house of cards tumbling to the ground.
Lewis had hinted over the summer that he was onto something big, telling Financial News back in August that he’d been introduced to someone within the crypto industry by a mutual friend.
“I really don’t want to reveal exactly what I’m writing about. But I found a character through whom I can write about—it weirdly links up Flash Boys, The Big Short and Liar’s Poker,” Lewis said, referring to his other books.
“I’m essentially over the next year going to be at this person’s hip. I don’t know quite what the story looks like yet,” Lewis said.
We now know that person was Sam Bankman-Fried, who lives in the Bahamas. It’s unclear what kind of access Lewis has now that shit has really hit the fan.
The 30-year-old Bankman-Fried founded FTX in 2019, a crypto exchange that grew to a valuation of $32 billion in a shockingly short amount of time. SBF, as he’s often called, became a billionaire while selling himself as an ethical rich guy. He was a promoter of “effective altruism,” supposedly giving away millions each year, and is a vegan who donated to largely left-leaning political causes, including President Joe Biden.
But it all came crashing down last week, thanks in large part to Bankman-Fried allegedly moving billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to sister organization Alameda Research, where he made bets he couldn’t cover. Both the SEC and DOJ have reportedly opened investigations into the former billionaire, even before the company filed for bankruptcy on Friday. To make things even weirder, FTX was supposedly “hacked” over the weekend and had about $600 million in crypto drained.
Bankman-Fried, who was personally worth about $26 billion at his peak, is apparently still in the Bahamas, where FTX was based, though there are rumors he’s trying to flee to a country without an extradition treaty with the U.S.—a move that would obviously make for a great scene in any movie that’s ultimately produced.
Michael Lewis is no stranger to Hollywood, and the rights to his work are pretty much guaranteed to fetch a pretty penny. The author’s book Moneyball was adapted to the big screen for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in 2011, and his book The Big Short was adapted for Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Christian Bale in 2015. Both movies were huge hits, with Moneyball taking in $110 million on a budget of $50 million and The Big Short grossing $133 million on a budget of $50 million.
Aside from the record-breaking speed of FTX’s implosion, the story of Bankman-Fried’s downfall has plenty of moments that any screenwriter would love, including a 10-person romantic relationship and rumors of widespread amphetamine use. Well, not so much rumors as tweets posted very publicly by Caroline Ellison, the head of Alameda Research and a romantic partner of Bankman-Fried.
Lewis will also surely have plenty of material to work from when it comes to Bankman-Fried’s family history. Both of the crypto founder’s parents are blue on Wikipedia: Barbara Fried and Joseph Bankman are professors at Stanford Law School. Bankman worked with his son’s companies. SBF’s aunt, Linda P. Fried, is also dean at Columbia University’s school of public health.
There are also little tidbits from old interviews with Bankman-Fried that are now surfacing as weird details that may or may not make the movie. For instance, Bankman-Fried gave an interview where he explained that he thought books were for losers. Seriously.
“I’m very skeptical of books. I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that. I think, if you wrote a book, you fucked up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post,” Bankman-Fried is quoted as saying in an interview that’s since been deleted from the internet.
Maybe SBF should’ve opened a book or two about how Ponzi schemes turn out. It’s usually not great for the people who run them.