Mr. Bankman-Fried spent much of Crypto Bahamas commuting between his laptop and the convention stage. Even his mother, Barbara Fried, had trouble spending time alone with him: when she was trying to get his attention one afternoon, a blockchain brother in a polo shirt cornered Mr. Bankman-Fried and asked him to write a birthday message to film for a friend. A few minutes later he was backstage shaking hands with Tony Blair and making awkward small talk about Brexit.
Unlike some crypto conferences, the Bahamas gathering was invitation-only and drew a large crowd. As a party favor, FTX guests were offered discounts at a private jet company. On the bus ride to a party on the beach, one attendee addressed his crypto yacht collective – “the most exclusive club, the most inclusive once you’re in”.
In places like Puerto Rico, the arrival of crypto millionaires chasing tax breaks has sent real estate prices skyrocketing, outraging longtime residents. But the Bahamas political leadership has welcomed FTX with open arms. Prime Minister Philip Davis kicked off day one of the conference program with an enthusiastic speech, stating that crypto entrepreneurs are “better attuned to innovation and change than most people on the planet.” Later, in an interview, Mr. Davis said he was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Bankman-Fried wore a suit to a meeting in his office. “We want you here,” Mr. Davis recalled after telling him.
Mr. Bankman-Fried skipped most of the conference celebrations, but he did not neglect his duties as host. He ate dinner with Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton and rarely turned down a selfie. He also spent a lot of time with Mr. Scaramucci, the chairman of SALT, a corporate events organization, who helped organize the conference.
SBF’s one-two with the Mooch marked the end of Crypto Bahamas. Back in the Green Room, FTX staff exchanged hugs and high fives. Mr. Bankman-Fried was scrolling his phone. He stretched and ran his hands through his hair. Then he looked at his watch. The comedy lasted about four minutes. “I have a lot of email to do,” he said.
Outside, the convention center emptied as hundreds of crypto enthusiasts flocked to the airport. It was the calm before the coming meltdown. To exit the resort, guests had to pass through the Baha Mar Casino, the largest in the Caribbean, a brightly lit hall with flashing slot machines.