The day Sam Bankman-Fried’s portrait graced the cover of Forbes in October 2021, cryptocurrency was a $2.2 trillion market — a valuation that would swell past $3 trillion a month later. Then 29 and one of the youngest self-made billionaires to land on the magazine’s ranking, he touted plans to give away his $22.5 billion fortune for the good of humanity.
But now his wealth is gone and his cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, has filed for bankruptcy, its top 50 creditors owed $3.1 billion. The collapse has roiled the crypto market, which in early December hovered near $866 billion — around its lowest point since 2020. On Tuesday, Bankman-Fried was hit with a slew of civil and criminal fraud charges, a day after his arrest in the Bahamas at the request of the U.S. Justice Department.
Yet the FTX implosion is only a grim finale to a year that saw several major crypto players and their larger-than-life founders topple. Looking back, they were marked by risky bets, the overpromise of large yields and customers who lost everything. Bankman-Fried even tried to bail out some of those troubled businesses before he flailed out on his own.
Nearly all of the companies have filed for bankruptcy, and at least one of their founders appears to be on the lam. Here’s a look at how the “crypto winter” began.