Yes, really. It’s all a LIE. SBF is a liar. MacAskill is a liar. It’s shocking how blatantly they all lie.
As a “filthy rich” public figure, SBF continued to follow the EA handbook — or so it seemed — which encourages its followers to be self-sacrificing, frugal and modest. This is based in marketing and public relations no less than a genuine commitment to the idea that, as privileged members of a rich nation, it’s their moral duty to forego unnecessary comforts for the sake of “doing good better.” But whatever the motive, it pays dividends. When MacAskill appeared on “The Daily Show” last September to promote his recent book, “What We Owe the Future,” his announcement that he gives away 50% of his income drew heavy applause. SBF, too, benefitted from media accounts that overlooked clear red flags at FTX to focus on his story as the humble crypto tycoon, practically a monk, who slept on bean bags in his office, shared an apartment with nine roommates, and drove a beat-up Carola.
A series of revelations since last summer, and especially since the FTX debacle, suggest that this was all, for lack of a better word, a massive grift. In reality, SBF owned a $40 million penthouse in the Bahamas, which he called home, and accrued a “local property portfolio worth an estimated three hundred million dollars.” Many of these “were luxury beachfront homes, including seven condominiums in an expensive resort community called Albany, costing almost $72 million.” SBF flew in private jets and purchased a $16.4 million mansion in the Bahamas under his parent’s name as a “vacation home.” FTX employees received free meals and had access to an “in-house Uber-like” transportation service. This is a far cry from the humble lifestyle that EAs, including MacAskill, consistently presented to the public.
MacAskill, meanwhile, has more money at his fingertips than most of us make in a lifetime. Left unmentioned during his “Daily Show” appearance: he hired several PR firms to promote his book, one of which was paid $12,000 per month, according to someone with direct knowledge of the matter. MacAskill’s team, this person tells me, even floated a total promotional budget ceiling of $10 million — a staggering number — thanks partly to financial support from the tech multibillionaire Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder of Facebook and a major funder of EA.
It’s easy to give away part of your income — and sound saintly announcing this on TV — when you have, say, a mansion in the Bahamas or multimillion-dollar budgets to promote your projects and your brand.
It’s almost as if having a bunch of wealthy, privileged people getting together to tout a story that makes them look saintly ought not to be trusted, automatically.
And yeah, SBF was living the monastic life — nay, like an anchorite on a pillar in the desert — if you’re willing to grant him hundreds of millions of dollars for his Bahama properties, and a private jet, and catered meals, and the attention of ex-presidents and tycoons. The beat-up Toyota Corolla probably has its own gold-plated garage.