Sam Bankman-Fried is no fashionista. His crypto billionaire uniform was a wrinkled T-shirt and baggy cargo shorts, and his attire as an alleged crypto criminal is an ill-fitting suit.
However, during his reign as crypto wunderkind, when celebrities, magazines, and former leaders of the free world courted him every step of the way, not even the queen of fashion and editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour, could resist someone with no concern for his clothing. Well, that’s until Bankman-Fried blew her off.
In an excerpt of his forthcoming chronicle of Bankman-Fried’s rise and fall, Michael Lewis, who’s published blockbuster hits like The Big Short and Moneyball, details how Bankman-Fried entertained Wintour’s invite to the Met Gala, arguably the most watched fashion event of the year, only to, like so many of his other commitments, not show up.
On Valentine’s Day in 2022, amid a tour of Los Angeles and meal after meal with celebrities like Shaquille O’Neil and Orlando Bloom, the high priestess of fashion pitched Bankman-Fried on coming to and sponsoring the gala.
The former CEO of FTX, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges before it suddenly went bankrupt almost a year ago, nodded along with repeated “Yups” as Wintour spoke over Zoom, but most of the time, he played his favorite video game, Storybook Brawl.
Given the impression that Bankman-Fried’s distracted nods were a yes to her invite and requests for a sponsorship, Wintour “warmly,” writes Lewis, ended the conversation. But the FTX cofounder was unconvinced. “I would have to think hard if this is a thing I want to go to,” he said shortly after the call was over.
Bankman-Fried’s team, though, planned as if he were going to the fashion event of the year, sounding out Louis Vuitton to see whether it was possible to design a couture version of Bankman-Fried’s T-shirt-and-cargo-pants uniform and paying Tom Ford to design an outfit replete with $65,000 cufflinks.
Inevitably, however, Bankman-Fried backed out of the gala, and as opposed to the polite notes of understanding from the many other celebrities he’s bailed on, Wintour’s team was outraged. “They called and shouted and said Sam will never set foot in fashion again!” the former head of public relations at FTX told Lewis.
A spokesperson for Vogue publisher Condé Nast told Fortune that Lewis’s account was “not accurate,” without elaborating.
The account of Bankman-Fried’s brief flirtation with the rarified echelons of fashion is just one of many previously unreported anecdotes to come out of Lewis’s highly anticipated book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon.
Others include Bankman-Fried’s musings of whether to pay former president Donald Trump billions to bow out of the 2024 presidential race and the previously unreported sums the FTX cofounder pledged to Tom Brady, former NFL quarterback, and Gisele Bündchen, a model and Brady’s ex-wife, for “partnering” with the crypto exchange.
Going Infinite is set to be published on Tuesday, the day that jury selection for Bankman-Fried’s trial is scheduled to start. Oral arguments will begin the following day in what is sure to be one of the most highly covered white-collar criminal cases of the decade.
Update, Oct. 3, 2023: Added in statement from Vogue disputing Lewis’s account.