Sam Bankman-Fried believed his wild hair helped him get higher bonuses early in his career and was 'very valuable,' Caroline Ellison testifies
- Caroline Ellison told jurors that Sam Bankman-Fried curated his image, especially his messy hair.
- Ellison said he believed his hair was "essential to his image" and was the reason for past bonuses.
Sam Bankman-Fried had a carefully curated image — unruly hair and all — according to his ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison.
Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, told jurors in a downtown Manhattan court room on Wednesday that Bankman-Fried had worked to polish his image as the cofounder of FTX — even if the results might have looked the opposite.
"He looked like he didn't put a lot of effort into his personal appearance," she said of her on-and-off again boyfriend. "He dressed pretty sloppily and rarely cut his hair."
Despite his casual image — which included a standard outfit of cargo shorts and a t-shirt — Ellison said it was all part of his plan for FTX and its affiliated hedge fund Alameda Research.
"He thought his hair was very valuable," Ellison said, adding that Bankman-Fried believed he'd gotten higher bonuses while he worked at the trading firm Jane Street due to his hair, and felt it was "essential to his image." Insider has reached out to Jane Street for comment.
Ellison said Bankman-Fried also took other measures to make himself look more down-to-Earth, including doing away with luxury cars in favor of owning a Toyota Corolla. She said she also drove a Honda Civic, in order to boost the company's image for the press. Additionally, Bankman-Fried encouraged Ellison to have a Twitter in order to generate positive press for the company, she said.
The former Alameda Research CEO said she would have preferred to keep a low profile, but Bankman-Fried had other plans, even allowing "The Big Short" author Michael Lewis to write a biography on him. Ellison said it was all a part of Bankman-Fried's process of creating an interesting persona for himself and FTX.
It's not the first time Bankman-Fried's unruly hair or his choice of car have come into the spotlight. In his book on the FTX cofounder, Lewis wrote that FTX even told architects to design its headquarters in the Bahamas in the style of Bankman-Fried's hair. Though, Bankman-Fried has cut his hair and worn a suit since his trial kicked off last week, dropping his hyper-casual style — a new look that may have contributed to Ellison taking around 30 seconds to point him out when asked to do so in court.
Bankman-Fried, whose net worth was valued at $26 billion at one point, has said in the past that he's "not that much of a consumer." He has said that he's part of a movement called Effective Altruism and his goal with FTX was to make as much money as possible so he could put the money toward doing good. He once told Bloomberg he planned to keep just 1% of his earnings and give the rest away.
"When you think about yourself personally, about spending money on yourself, how much can you spend usefully on yourself?" Bankman-Fried told Yahoo Finance Live in April 2022 before FTX collapsed. "You can buy nice food. You're talking about hundreds of thousands a year, right? You get to millions a year with fancy things, but after the 10th car, it's not fair what you're doing."
Some of Bankman-Fried's statements appeared at odds with his lifestyle, which included living in a $35 million penthouse condo in the Bahamas and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on celebrity brand deals for FTX.
Bankman-Fried is facing seven criminal charges of fraud. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts, but prosecutors allege he stole billions of dollars from customers and investors in his cryptocurrency exchange, and commingled funds between FTX and his hedge fund, Alameda Research.
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