Rumors that top executives at bankrupt crypto giant FTX were involved in a sex-fueled “polycule” are exaggerated at best, according to a former employee. He claims they instead spent their free time on nerdy pursuits such as board games, hackathons and role-playing sessions.
Rumors of a polyamorous coterie of crypto nerds at FTX have been rife since last fall — particularly Sam Bankman-Fried, the 31-year-old boss whose epic fraud trial is set to begin Monday in Manhattan federal court; and his ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison, the 28-year-old former head of FTX hedge fund Alameda Research, who is expected to testify against him.
Ellison – a bespectacled, Stanford-educated and self-confessed “Harry Potter” fanatic – helped fuel speculation by posting his views on polyamory online, declaring in a blog post that the “only acceptable style of poly” “Imperial Chinese Harem”. where participants “ranked their partners” and engaged in “vicious power struggles for the higher ranks.”
Still, Aditya Baradwaj, a former software engineer at FTX sister firm Alameda Research who reported directly to Ellison, threw cold water on the hot and fiery gossip.
This includes a November report alleging Ellison and Bankman-Fried were part of a “cabal of roommates” in a “luxury penthouse” in the Bahamas, all of whom “are or have been involved in romantic relationships.”
“When there were orgies, I lived right next door.” Baradwaj said The Post. “I would have heard it from my balcony.”
Baradwaj added: “If you gave them some alcohol and left them alone in a room, they would end up playing board games. “I’m very confident there was no polycule.”
Representatives for Bankman-Fried and Ellison declined to comment.
Bankman-Fried’s love life is turned upside down during the ex-billionaire’s federal fraud trial.
Bankman-Fried was jailed last month after she leaked Ellison’s personal writings to the press, including diary entries in which she feared the pair were “making things weird” and “causing drama in the office.”
However, Baradwaj said that despite Bankman-Fried admitting that he felt “claustrophobic” towards the end, according to court documents, the couple caused “no embarrassment or drama in the office” despite their frequent separations.
“It was known that they had something, but if you didn’t know that information through rumors, you wouldn’t see it,” Baradwaj said. “There was no PDA, there were no lovers’ quarrels – at least not in public. It never affected work.”
According to Baradwaj, five couples lived in the $40 million penthouse called The Orchid, including Bankman-Fried and Ellison, who shared a room when their relationship was still intact.
Others who lived there with their girlfriends included FTX technical director Nishad Singh and FTX technical director Gary Wang.
Like Ellison, Singh and Wang have pleaded guilty to fraud charges and will testify in Bankman-Fried’s trial.
The penthouse in the Albany complex served as a “corporate social space,” according to Baradwaj.
Employees had the access code and had free access, which would have made it difficult for FTX executives to hide a polycule from staff.
“It is possible that Caroline was polyamorous in the past and perhaps even then,” Baradwaj added. “But if so, then it wasn’t a big polycule thing.”
Instead of wild sex orgies, Baradwaj said, Ellison liked to stage live-action role-playing games, also known as LARPS—a type of improvisational performance in which participants are assigned roles and act out them.
On one occasion, Ellison created a “LARP” that Baradwaj described as a revisionist re-enactment of the story of the founding of the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas.
The staff impersonated historical figures who lived in the Bahamas, including Ernest Hemingway and Bahamian journalist Étienne Dupuch.
“We had hackathons at Orchid. “We had social events and dinners at Orchid,” Baradwaj said. “Caroline’s LARP was there. Plus, we all knew these people. I know for a fact that these people didn’t have orgies.”
Bankman-Fried, meanwhile, is a video game fanatic with a Well-known habit of playing “League of Legends” in the middle of meetingssays various media reports.
Baradwaj — who previously told The Post that he believed Bankman-Fried was “definitely guilty” of the federal charges — blamed the polyamory rumors on what he described as “a game of telephone between different branches of the media.”
His report agrees with that of Dr. George K. Lerner, a psychiatrist who reportedly worked as a consultant at FTX and as a therapist for some of the company’s employees.
Last December, Lerner dismissed the notion that Bankman-Fried, Ellison and other FTX executives were part of a polycule, describing the company’s “executives” as “actually undersexed.”
Media scrutiny over whether FTX executives were polyamorous angered Bankman-Fried, who complained about the situation last November.
“We as a society, in my humble opinion, have spent about enough time this week trying to figure out whether someone who lives in Albany is polyamorous,” Bankman-Fried said during a phone call with influencer Tiffany Fong. “I feel like I’ve answered this question many times and the answer is too boring for people to believe.”
Ellison has already pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is expected to be a key witness for federal authorities who alleged that Bankman-Fried stole billions in FTX customer funds – some of which were used to fund risky bets at Alameda.