This Vegan Billionaire Disrupted the Crypto Markets. Stocks May Be Next.


Want to trade Tesla Inc. 24 hours a day? How about betting on how Robinhood Markets Inc. stock will fare in its initial public offering? Or on whether Donald Trump will retake the presidency in 2024?

All that and more is available on FTX, one of the world’s fastest-growing cryptocurrency exchanges—but not if you’re American. In that case, the hottest and riskiest markets of this Hong Kong-based exchange are off limits, a move FTX made to keep from running afoul of U.S. regulators.

FTX is the brainchild of Sam Bankman-Fried, a 29-year-old billionaire who sticks to a vegan diet, shares a Hong Kong apartment with roommates and often sleeps on beanbag chairs in the office. The California native drew attention last year when he gave $5 million to a group backing Joe Biden’s campaign, making him the second-biggest CEO supporter of Mr. Biden after Michael Bloomberg, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

More recently, FTX notched a $135 million, 19-year deal to buy the naming rights to the home of the Miami Heat. The deal—which was approved by the National Basketball Association last week—means the stadium now called the American Airlines Arena will be FTX Arena starting with the 2021-22 NBA season. FTX says the deal is aimed at promoting its smaller U.S. exchange, which offers a less exotic array of products than FTX’s overseas operation.

Cryptocurrencies are increasingly going mainstream. Bitcoin has more than doubled in value this year, and Coinbase Global Inc., one of the biggest U.S. crypto companies, went public on the Nasdaq Stock Market this week. Depending whom you ask, Coinbase’s market capitalization of $84 billion is either a sign that bitcoin mania has gotten out of hand, or that traditional finance is about to be conquered by disrupters from the crypto world.



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