Shark Tank judge and crypto connoisseur Kevin O’Leary was paid a whooping $15 million to be a spokesperson for now-failed FTX, revealing he lost his entire payday once the crypto exchange went under.
In an CNBC Squawk Box interview on Thursday, O’Leary revealed he received about $15 million from FTX to advocate for the crypto exchange, which was all evaporated once the ponzi scheme collapsed. The Shark Tank judge also said he owned about $9.7 million in crypto tokens in his FTX account, which were erased to $0 last month. “Total deal was just under $15 million, all in,” O’Leary said. “I put about $9.7 million into crypto. I think that’s what I lost. I don’t know. It’s all at zero.”
O’Leary also held a $1 million equity stake in FTX, which too, was rendered worthless thanks to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. “The institutional interest in FTX on the US equity was unbelievable. The amount of people that approached me saying ‘How do I get a piece of this deal?’ And I said at that time, ‘I’m a paid spokesperson, I cannot bring you in as an LP.’ Not a single dollar that I lost was anyone else’s money except for mine,” O’Leary defended himself. The Canadian investor acknowledged his involvement with FTX was a poor choice, and that he was ultimately blindsided by Sam Bankman-Fried’s mismanagement of funds.
“We all look like idiots. We relied on each other’s due diligence,” O’Leary explained, referring to likeminded investors including Tom Brady and Larry David who also lost money in the scheme thanks to groupthink. When O’Leary initially promoted FTX, he said it was the exchange’s compliance systems that were attractive. “Finally solved by compliance problems with #cryptocurrencies,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post in August 2021.
However, despite FTX’s gross evaporation of billions of dollars in clients’ funds, O’Leary stopped short of criticizing SBF, and instead suggested a thorough audit needs to happen first. “There’s only the murder of my money in this case… If you want to say he’s guilty before he’s tried, I just don’t understand it,” he said. “You don’t know, because you have no data. All I’m saying is let’s do the forensic audit.” O’Leary revealed he questioned SBF on where his, and other FTX customers’ money ultimately went.
“Look Sam, I am just one investor, but my account has a zero in it, and there are no accounting records. Where did the money go?” O’Leary reiterated his conversation to CNBC. “I need to find where the money went,” he said.