Best-selling author Michael Lewis may have lucked into the story of a lifetime – quite the development given he has already published a long string of hit books including “The Big Short” and “Flash Boys.”
Lewis, according to a letter from Creative Artists Agency circulating in Hollywood, has just spent the past six months or so “traveling with and interviewing Sam Bankman-Fried,” the former billionaire whose cryptocurrency empire dramatically blew up this month after a CoinDesk scoop spurred fear that his business was built on a house of cards.
The Ankler, an entertainment industry newsletter, was first to report on the existence of the letter, saying it was sent Friday to potential buyers of film rights for the book. CoinDesk subsequently verified that the letter was indeed sent.
“His childhood, early success on Wall Street, embrace of effective altruism and the creation of a crypto empire that catapulted him in record time into the ranks of the richest people in the world seemed more than sufficient for a signature Michael Lewis book,” the letter said. “The events of the past week have provided a dramatic surprise ending to the story.”
The letter added: “Michael hasn’t written anything yet, but the story has become too big for us to wait.”
A voicemail message left with a senior publicist at Lewis’ publisher, W. W. Norton & Co., wasn’t returned.
There has been speculation for months that Lewis was profiling Bankman-Fried. When asked about that by CoinDesk in September, Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
Lewis is one of the most successful and famous non-fiction writers around. His first book, “Liar’s Poker,” was about his time working as a bond trader. “The Big Short” told the story of investors who successfully bet on the housing market blowing up in 2008, and “Flash Boys” described how computer-driven traders transformed Wall Street and highlighted an effort to fight back.
Lewis often builds his books around scrappy upstarts who challenge the status quo, like baseball executive Billy Beane from “Moneyball,” who helped popularize a more analytical approach to evaluating players, or Brad Katsuyama from “Flash Boys,” whose startup IEX – which Bankman-Fried’s FTX US agreed to invest in this year, creating a connection of sorts to Lewis – took on Wall Street incumbents like the New York Stock Exchange.
Lewis already said he planned to write a book that would discuss crypto. “I found a character through whom I can write about – it weirdly links up ‘Flash Boys,’ ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Liar’s Poker,’” he told Financial News in an interview published in August.
“I guess it is possible it will be framed as a crypto book, but it won’t be a crypto book,” Lewis told Financial News. “It’ll be about this really unusual character. You’ll learn all about crypto and you’ll learn about what screwed up market structure in the United States and so on.”
Lewis interviewed Bankman-Fried on stage in the Bahamas – where Bankman-Fried ran the business – at an FTX conference held in April. “There’s a status upheaval in the financial world, and you’re sitting right in the middle of it,” Lewis said to Bankman-Fried. Lewis was later seen sitting in the audience writing in his notebook.
Bankman-Fried’s business failed partly because Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of bigger crypto exchange Binance, said he planned to sell his holdings of a token issued by FTX. Chaos ensued, and Binance announced a deal to bail out FTX – which was withdrawn the next day.
Referring to Bankman-Fried and Zhao, the letter circulating in Hollywood said Lewis ”likens them to the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader of crypto.”
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