- In an interview with Insider, Kevin O’Leary explained his next move now that FTX, a company he invested in, filed for bankruptcy.
- The “Shark Tank” investor said he’s moving his assets to Canada, and will no longer keep funds in unregulated exchanges.
- He also broke down details of his phone call with FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
“Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary has had his hands full lately, deciding where to put his money after gauging interest in a potential rescue of FTX that ultimately fell through.
A paid spokesperson and investor in the bankrupt exchange, the market veteran spent the weekend on calls trying to sort through rumors surrounding founder Sam Bankman-Fried and determine how much of his money could be recovered.
“I’m writing that all down to zero,” O’Leary told Insider. “It’s not clear what can be recovered. There’s a lot of allegations flying around. But frankly, I’ve seen this movie before. It’s a difficult situation, there’s no question about it. There’ll be a mountain of litigation.”
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bankman-Fried is trying to raise money to pay back clients, while FTX warned that it could have more than 1 million creditors.
The company’s collapse rattled trust across the cryptocurrency sector, and O’Leary, a native Canadian, has started moving his assets elsewhere. Canada is the only country that offers fully regulated broker-dealer exchange accounts, he said.
In his view, unregulated exchanges aren’t safe, regardless of their size, so he’s turned to crypto exchange WonderFi, which is regulated by the Ontario Securities Exchange. He’s a shareholder in the parent company, and it was also the first crypto-trading platform on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“We have confidence that the regulatory environment in Canada scrutinizes accounts that can’t be commingled,” O’Leary said. “I can’t find another place on Earth right now safer than Canada.”
A phone call with Bankman-Fried
O’Leary said he doesn’t think the market has seen the bottom of the FTX fallout yet, marking a stark reversal from two-and-a-half years ago, when FTX’s management team approached him to arrange a 30-minute meeting with Bankman Fried.
That turned into a three-hour lunch. O’Leary then met Bankman-Fried’s parents — both lawyers — and gained more confidence from seeing other large, global investors backing FTX.
While federal regulators are reportedly investigating FTX and Bankman-Fried, who last week resigned as CEO, for potentially mishandling client funds, O’Leary maintains he’s never met a more brilliant mind when it comes to crypto and blockchain.
“He’s a savant,” he said. “He’s probably one of the most accomplished traders of crypto in the world, and so I was very impressed.”
Given his astuteness, O’Leary finds it hard to believe Bankman-Fried didn’t realize the risks he was taking, as reports say he transferred billions in FTX client funds to his Alameda Research trading arm. The 30-year-old founder will have a “fair amount of explaining to do” when all the facts emerge, he said.
O’Leary said he spent last Thursday fielding calls from prospective investors in FTX. Sovereign wealth funds were interested to the tune of $6 billion-$8 billion, according to O’Leary, but there wasn’t clarity on which was the correct amount. O’Leary messaged Bankman-Fried asking about it, and he received a call immediately.
“He confirmed that it was $8 billion, and that’s the number I took forward,” O’Leary explained. “We had a brief conversation. He was very rational. We discussed a few things about, you know, the timing on that $6 to $8 billion. But it was enough information for me to go back to the interested sources and confirm the number was eight.”
Bankman-Fried also said on the call, according to O’Leary, that regulators were going to “come down hard” on the situation.
But as reports swirled that the Securities and Exchange Commission and other global regulators were closing in on FTX, rescue offers dried up shortly after the pair’s phone call.
“All of those interested parties were gone,” O’Leary said. “I texted that back to Sam. I did not have a conversation with him, and I told him that was not going to be an option.”
Still, O’Leary believes that if a sovereign wealth fund or other buyer had put in roughly $4 billion, then investors would’ve again felt safe keeping their assets in FTX.
“So really what was on the table and being debated all around the world what you could buy a $32 billion asset for $4 billion,” he said.