Once upon a time, there were two titans of the crypto industry: Sam Bankman-Fried, the child of Stanford professors and founder of FTX, and Changpeng Zhao, the nomadic founder of Binance. The pair were the faces of crypto, generating billion-dollar fortunes comparable to the likes of Elon Musk and Bill Gates. That is, until their rivalry threatened to burn the entire industry to the ground.
For years, the pair had waged a cold war as Sam fought to unseat Zhao, or CZ, and dominate the industry. Then, last year, CZ fired a warning shot: one that would send FTX into a downward spiral, and reveal what prosecutors describe as a staggering $8bn fraud at the heart of Sam’s empire. Now, as Sam potentially faces decades in prison, journalist Tom Wright has been investigating the hidden origins of his feud with CZ – starting with a key witness: CZ himself.