Sam Bankman-Fried, Crypto Billionaire, Wants Washington to Follow His Lead

Mr. Bankman-Fried spent much of Crypto Bahamas shuttling between his laptop and the convention stage. Even his mother, Barbara Fried, found it difficult to spend time alone with him: as she tried to get his attention one afternoon, a blockchain brother in a polo shirt cornered Mr Bankman-Fried, asking him to film a birthday message for a friend. Minutes later, he was backstage, shaking hands with Tony Blair and having an awkward little conversation about Brexit.

Unlike some crypto conferences, the gathering in the Bahamas was an invite-only affair, and it drew a large crowd. As a favor, FTX guests were offered discounts on a private jet company. During the bus ride to a beach party, one attendee talked about his crypto yacht collective – “the most exclusive club that is the most inclusive once you are there.”

In places like Puerto Rico, the arrival of crypto-millionaires seeking tax breaks has sent housing prices soaring, outraged by longtime residents. But political leaders in the Bahamas have welcomed FTX with open arms. Prime Minister Philip Davis opened the conference’s first day of programming with an enthusiastic speech, declaring that crypto entrepreneurs are “better wired for innovation and change than most people on the planet.” Later, in an interview, Mr. Davis said he was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Bankman-Fried wore a suit during a meeting at his office. “We want you here,” Mr. Davis recalled telling him.

Mr. Bankman-Fried skipped most of the conference festivities, but he didn’t neglect his hosting duties. He dined with Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton and rarely turned down a selfie. He also gave a lot of time to Mr. Scaramucci, the president of SALT, a corporate events organization that helped organize the conference.

SBF’s double act with the Mooch marked the end of Crypto Bahamas. Back in the Green Room, FTX staff members exchanged hugs and high fives. Mr. Bankman-Fried scrolled through his phone. He stretched and ran his hands through his hair. Then he looked at his watch. The comedy piece had lasted about four minutes. “I have a lot of emails to catch up on,” he said.

Outside, the convention center was emptying, as hundreds of crypto enthusiasts made their way to the airport. It was the calm before the coming collapse. To exit the resort, guests had to walk through Baha Mar Casino, the largest in the Caribbean, a brightly lit hall of flashing slot machines.