Newly Appointed Chief of FTX Says the Exchange Could Restart

Newly Appointed Chief of FTX Says the Exchange Could Restart

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In an exclusive interview with The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), John J. Ray III, FTX’s new chief executive, says he is exploring the possibility of restarting the bankrupt exchange.

In his first public interview since taking over as chief executive of the bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, John J. Ray III, said he is looking into the possibility of reviving the exchange as he works tirelessly to return money to the company’s customers and creditors. Mr. Ray is probably the person best suited to recovering funds as he is a veteran of restructuring troubled companies, most famously Enron Corp, where he successfully returned billions of dollars to the company’s creditors.

Mr. Ray told the WSJ that he has established a task force to explore the possibility of restarting FTX.com – FTX’s main international exchange. Ray further said that even though many FTX executives have been accused of criminal misconduct, some of the exchange’s customers have suggested that there would be value in reviving the exchange purely based on its sound technology.

Commenting on the possibility of restarting the exchange, Mr. Ray said:

Everything is on the table, adding, “If there is a path forward on that, then we will not only explore that, we’ll do it.”

Stakeholders See a Viable Business

The collapse of FTX and its bankruptcy filing was the tipping point in the crypto market after numerous other cryptocurrency platforms that came before already caused havoc across the industry. Several of the platforms that froze millions of users’ access to their funds, including FTX, Celsius, Voyager Digital, and BlockFi have turned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way to explore restarting their businesses. Ray said that he is investigating whether restarting FTX.com would recover more value for its customer than his team could gain from simply liquidating company assets or selling the platform. He said:

There are stakeholders we’re working with who’ve identified what they see is a viable business.

Should reviving the exchange prove to be something worth pursuing, the outlook for FTX’s customers still hangs in the balance. Almost every day news is published reporting more missing funds, shortfalls in relation to what is owed to customers, and so-called “hacks.” The extent and magnitude of the executive’s mismanagement of customers’ funds are actually beyond belief. How could something so extensive have gone on for so long undetected, or rather, unreported?  

A Mammoth Task Lays Before Mr. Ray

John J. Ray is now in the unfortunate position of having to identify some value in the company that could help make up for the shortfall – the extent of which the exchange has not yet disclosed. But as previously said, Mr. Ray is probably the one best equipped for the job. To say Mr. Ray has been thrown into the deep end is somewhat of an understatement. When he initially took over, he had been given no guidance or indication of where the staff at FTX stored its customer's digital assets and cash, nor did he receive any centralised ledger identifying where FTX kept its funds.

He conceded that Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX, and Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Alameda Research, did try to assist Ray in tracking the funds, but both have since pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to FTX. Mr. Ray told the WSJ that he has even received criticism from disgraced Sam Bankman-Fried who had the gall to criticise Ray’s handling of the company and said it was a mistake for the company to file for bankruptcy. Ray was quick to dismiss SBF’s comments saying that they’re “unhelpful” and “self-serving.”

Irregularities Continue to Come to Light

Since taking over FTX, Mr. Ray has remodeled the company’s structure which he discovered had almost no corporate governance, and has let go of dozens of staff. The task he and his team faces is big – currently, they are sifting through over 30 terabytes of data from FTX that could possibly lead them to the location of funds. FTX disclosed last week that is had identified $5 billion in liquid assets, along with a $4.6 billion investment portfolio. This ought to be good news, but it is still unclear how much of those funds can be realised from the stakes FTX and its associated research firm, Alameda, bought in crypto start-ups and other private ventures.

Mr. Ray discovered that FTX, Alameda, and other entities part of SBF’s crypto empire invested more than $5 billion into more than 150 start-ups. The chief executive said “They went on a spending spree,” something which he has not seen before in all his years of experience dealing with troubled companies. Ray revealed shocking discoveries in his interview including that there are no records or proof of transactions behind some of the numerous multimillion-dollar deals SFB undertook during the market boom when FTX became one of the leading exchanges, saying:

Sometimes there were no purchase agreements, or the agreements weren’t signed.

SBF Continues to Criticise from the Comfort of His Home

Per the conditions of his bail, SBF has been confined to his parent’s home in California. Despite facing federal charges and being an absolute disgrace to the industry, the former CEO continues to criticise Mr. Ray’s approach to managing FTX. In true form, SBF has become somewhat of a keyboard warrior and has created a blog. Earlier in the week, after Mr. Ray disclosed a shortfall on FTX’s U.S. exchange, SBF took to his new blog to post information on estimated FTX bank balances which showed a supposed surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars which he claims would be sufficient to cover U.S. customer claims.

Mr. Ray responded to SBF’s claims of sufficient funds and said that his (incorrect) calculations include $250 million of cash that sits at LedgerX, the U.S. crypto derivatives business FTX acquired in 2021. Ray however pointed out to SBF that LedgerX itself was purchased with funds from Alameda Research, which improperly diverted funds from FTX’s international exchange. In essence, SBF’s delusional proposed balance sheet would mean covering losses at the U.S. exchange through money belonging to other customers – the exact type of thinking and management that lead to the collapse of FTX. Mr. Ray commented:

This is the problem, adding “He thinks everything is one big honey pot.”

Arrogantly, SBF responded in a text message:

Mr. Ray continues to make false statements based on non-existent calculations. If Mr. Ray had bothered to think carefully about FTX US, he would likely have realized both that his interpretation is wholly inconsistent with bankruptcy law, and also that even if one were to subtract $250m from my balance sheet, FTX US would *still* have been solvent. Rather, Mr. Ray sees everything as one big honey pot—one he wants to keep.

SBF has even been active and vocal on Twitter: 

Mr. Ray responded by saying that SBF’s explanation about what went wrong under his leadership is often misleading and confusing to FTX’s customers, not to mention to everyone in the industry following the saga. Mr. Ray simply said:

That’s unfortunate because people are continuing to be victims right now. They are victims of misinformation, aptly adding “It’s harmful.”

Beyond the criticisms dealt with by SBF, he has had to defend himself against those that allege he is more interested in generating fees for himself than saving the FTX estate.

Mr. Ray concluded his interview by noting that the high level of criminality surrounding FTX makes it difficult to trust existing employees, and as such he has to enlist the help of seasoned professionals with experience in dealing with criminal corporate activity, many of which come with an expensive price tag. He said:

Crime is very expensive. It does a lot of damage to people, adding, “And one of the damages is that people like me have to come in and fix it.”

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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