Kevin O’Leary of FTX Pitchman Sam Bankman-Fried will not classify a scam

FTX investor and former paid speaker Kevin O’Leary declined to condemn Sam Bankman-Fried or classify the doomed company’s collapse as fraud during a tense television appearance Friday.

O’Leary, one of the sharks on the hit show “Shark Tank,” gave a toothless response when pressed to point the finger at who was to blame.

“I don’t have all the facts,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” hosts.

Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison for eight federal counts for his alleged crypto scam job and has drawn comparisons to Bernie Madoff, the late Ponzi scheme mastermind.

Prosecutors say Bankman Fried is responsible for “one of the largest financial frauds in US history.” He is being held in a prison in the Bahamas while fighting extradition.

But O’Leary is not willing to condemn the former benefactor.

“This is America,” said the TV celebrity who goes by the nickname “Mr. Fabulous.”

CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin bluntly asked O’Leary if he viewed FTX as a scam.

“Kevin, you’re an actor in this drama, and you had a front row seat to Pinkman-Fried until the very end,” Sorkin said. “What do you think happened? Do you think this was a scam?”

Sam Bankman Fried faces 115 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

“I don’t have the facts. [FTX CEO] John Ray does not own it yet. O’Leary replied. “I’m looking at my records. I’m willing to fund a forensic account of our accounts.”

He added, “There are a lot of bad things that have been claimed here, and a lot of them will be true, most likely.”

O’Leary, a CNBC shareholder, admitted to receiving $15 million to serve as a brand ambassador for FTX. He also owns a stake worth more than $1 million. O’Leary said he has lost all of his proceeds from FTX since the company filed for bankruptcy.

Kevin O'Leary
Kevin O’Leary is a former paid FTX spokesperson.

Earlier this week, O’Leary was called to testify before the Senate Banking Committee about the collapse of FTX.

O’Leary was one of several celebrities, including NFL legend Tom Brady and comedian Larry David, named as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit on behalf of the scorned FTX investors. They faced heavy criticism for promoting FTX to the public before its downfall.

At one point in the interview, the CNBC host noted that O’Leary was an outspoken critic of cryptocurrency before joining FTX. Despite his public statements, O’Leary claimed that he started investing in cryptocurrencies before becoming a spokesperson for FTX in 2018.

Kevin O'Leary
O’Leary said he lost all the money he had tied to FTX.

But Sorkin noted that back in 2019, O’Leary referred to Bitcoin as “garbage.”

“So I’m wrong about that,” O’Leary said. “The point is, it was a long time ago before I became a paid spokesperson. Before long.”

When asked about efforts underway to compensate those affected by the FTX bankruptcy, O’Leary said that the platform’s clients must be fully funded before any investors.

“Shareholders, myself included, don’t think we should get anything back. We’re VCs, we’re big, we lost our money, and we understand it,” O’Leary said. “I don’t want to put anything back out there until the people who have money in their accounts get their money back. “

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