Disgraced crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried wanted to use his wealth to stop Donald Trump running for president in 2024, and was even given a starting price for how much it would cost him, according to the FTX founder’s biographer.
In his biography of the now notorious startup founder—which will be published on Oct. 3—Michael Lewis alleges Bankman-Fried looked into paying Trump not to run against Joe Biden again in 2024.
According to the book, Bankman-Fried considered Trump an “existential risk”—but the concept of him paying the former president off would “only shock you if you don’t know Sam.”
“Sam’s thinking: ‘We could pay Donald Trump not to run for president. How much would it take?’” Lewis told CBS in a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday evening.
Bankman-Fried started getting the wheels in motion to make Trump an offer, according to Lewis’s book Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon—and he received a preliminary figure for what it would cost him to shut down Trump’s bid to take back the Oval Office.
“There was a number that was kicking around. And the number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam about this was $5 billion,” Lewis told CBS, although he noted that Bankman-Fried “was not sure that number came directly from Trump.”
Representatives for Trump, who is currently vying to become the Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election, did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.
The criminally indicted former president is currently the favorite to be on the ballot, polls show, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and underdog Vivek Ramaswamy trailing behind as the second- and third-most-popular candidates, Morning Consult data shows.
Asked why Bankman-Fried “didn’t follow through” with this particular political pursuit, Lewis said the FTX boss was unsure whether making such a payment would actually be legal—but more important, he became unable to commit to such a huge transaction in a matter of days.
“They were still having these conversations when FTX blew up,” Lewis explained in Sunday’s interview. “So why didn’t it happen? He didn’t have $5 billion anymore.”
Until November, Bankman-Fried was widely respected, giving testimony in Congress on the future of the digital asset industry and featuring on the covers of Fortune and Forbes. However, the 48-hour demise of FTX left his reputation in tatters and has resulted in him facing multiple criminal charges including defrauding the crypto exchange’s investors.
The former FTX boss also took a massive personal financial hit, with his entire $16 billion fortune being wiped out, according to Bloomberg, marking one of the greatest destructions of wealth in history. At the peak of his fortune, the 31-year-old had a net worth of $26 billion.
According to Lewis, also the author of The Big Short and The Blind Side, Trump’s contesting of the 2020 election result fueled Bankman-Fried’s aversion to the former president.
“He took the view that all the big existential problems are going to require the United States government to be involved to solve them,” Lewis said. “And if democracy is undermined—like, we don’t have our democracy anymore—all these problems are less likely to be solved. He saw Trump trying to undermine democracy, and he thought, ‘Trump belongs on the list of existential risks.’”
While he was being touted as the “next Warren Buffett” and carefully crafting a reputation as a philanthropist who cared more about saving the world than making money, Bankman-Fried was publicly lauded as a major Democratic donor, spending tens of millions of dollars backing the party.
Last year, around six months before his downfall, Bankman-Fried said he was mulling spending up to $1 billion in the run-up to the 2024 election, which would have made him the biggest-ever political donor in a single election. His financial support of the Democrats would be closer to the billion-dollar “soft ceiling” if Trump was running again, he said at the time.
However, following FTX’s collapse, the apparently staunch Democrat admitted he had been secretly donating to Republicans in equal measure.
In a bid to keep Trump from returning to the White House, Bankman-Fried allegedly met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss funding alternative Republican candidates.
“The subtext of this dinner is Sam is going to write tens of millions of dollars of checks to a super PAC that Mitch McConnell is then going to use to get elected people who are not hostile to democracy,” Lewis told CBS. “He and his people had done work to distinguish between actual deep Trumpers and people who were just seeming to approve of Donald Trump, but were actually willing to govern.”
A spokesperson for McConnell was not available when contacted by Fortune.
Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas—where FTX was based—in December, and is currently being held in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center while he awaits trial for alleged fraud relating to business practices at FTX. His trial begins this week.
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