The FTX cryptocurrency exchange may not be dead.
The platform, the flagship company of Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto empire, could be revived in the coming months.
So said John Ray, the CEO appointed Nov. 11 when Bankman-Fried's empire filed for bankruptcy, to handle the liquidation.
In his first public interview, Ray spoke with The Wall Street Journal, saying that some FTX executives, clients and investors are praising FTX technology despite the criminal charges filed against founder and former CEO Bankman-Fried.
Customers therefore suggest that there would be value in rebooting FTX, the bankruptcy-restructuring veteran said.
"Everything is on the table," Ray told the Journal. "If there is a path forward on that, then we will not only explore that, we'll do it."
Ray and Bankman-Fried Trade Barbs
Ray is known particularly for having piloted the liquidation of the bankrupt energy broker Enron.
The final decision will depend on whether relaunching FTX enables clients and investors to recover more of their funds or whether the liquidation of assets or even the sale of the platform is more advantageous for creditors.
The new CEO of FTX also leveled fresh criticism at the behavior of his predecessor, who had indicated in media interviews and in recent posts that the bankruptcy filing was not the only option for FTX.
"We don't need to be dialoguing with him," Ray said, referring to Bankman-Fried. "He hasn't told us anything that I don't already know."
Bankman-Fried immediately shot back: "This is a shocking and damning comment from someone pretending to care about customers," the former trader told the Journal in a text message.
"Despite its insolvency, and despite processing roughly $5b of withdrawals over its last few days of operation, FTX International retains significant assets – roughly $8b of assets of varying liquidity as of when Mr. Ray took over," he asserted on Jan. 12 without elaborating.
"In addition to that, there were numerous potential funding offers – including signed [letters of intent] post chapter 11 filing totaling over $4b. I believe that, had FTX International been given a few weeks, it could likely have utilized its illiquid assets and equity to raise enough financing to make customers substantially whole."
FTX was valued at $32 billion last February.
Bankman-Fried Is Under House Arrest
The firm and its sister company Alameda Research, a hedge fund and trading platform, went bankrupt after their respective customers rushed to withdraw their money by selling the cryptocurrencies they had previously purchased.
FTX was using the client cryptocurrencies as collateral to borrow money, which in turn it had transferred to Alameda Research with which it shares several links. Alameda used this money to invest in crypto businesses and also for trading operations.
Ray and his team have painted an unflattering picture of the Bankman-Fried regime.
"Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here," Ray wrote in a 30-page document filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware in November.
"From compromised systems integrity and faulty regulatory oversight abroad, to the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals, this situation is unprecedented."
The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have filed a series of criminal and civil charges accusing Bankman-Fried of fraud.
"Bankman-Fried was orchestrating a massive, yearslong fraud, diverting billions of dollars of the trading platform’s customer funds for his own personal benefit and to help grow his crypto empire,” the SEC alleges in its civil complaint.
He was released after his parents, both law professors at Stanford University, signed a $250 million recognizance bond pledging their California home as collateral. Two other friends with significant assets also signed, according to news reports.
During a Jan. 3 hearing in U.S. District Court in New York Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty.
The trial is scheduled for Oct. 8.