Binance Is Buying FTX: A Timeline of Events
After a long feud, the two centralized exchanges will soon become one
Blockworks exclusive art by axel rangel
By some accounts, it was just a matter of time.
Crypto exchange Binance’s rapid move to acquire rival FTX triggered surging volatility in digital assets markets on Tuesday.
The deal, which is pending due diligence and finalizing terms, reflects a sudden de-escalation of what had been a building feud between the two prominent market makers. And it comes after years of jostling for talent and market share, undercutting on fees and navigating crypto’s choppy waters.
One source told Blockworks the likely acquisition is a “no-brainer” for Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao and a reflection that his FTX counterpart, Sam Bankman-Fried has been in a tough spot when it comes to his exchange’s liquidity issues.
“You’ve got to get a kick out of the irony,” the source said. “This is exactly what [Bankman-Fried] has been doing: snapping up struggling crypto [companies] at bargain-basement prices.”
The transaction makes strategic sense, according to a second source, considering the two companies shared business models and overlap when it comes to both institutional and retail trader customers. And it “especially” makes sense — historically — that one would eventually falter as longtime survivors in the turbulent waters of digital assets.
Sources were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive business dealings.
Still, it caught the majority of big-money industry participants off guard, considering Zhao quite recently tweeted he would be liquidating any remaining FTT, FTX’s native token, from its books.
What follows is a timeline to chart how the feud unfolded and the series of events that ultimately led to the proposed purchase:
Zhao became interested in cryptocurrency in 2013 when he first learned about Bitcoin. He serves as the head of development at Blockchain.info (now Blockchain.com), a blockchain explorer that later created a cryptocurrency wallet.
The Chinese-Canadian, who moved to Vancouver in the late 1980s launched Binance in 2017, scales the exchange to roughly 1.5 million customers in the first year of operating — long before cryptocurrency itself reached a critical mass.
At around the same time in 2017, Sam Bankman-Fried founds Alameda Research, a digital assets-focused proprietary trading and venture capital firm.
After graduating with a degree in physics from MIT, the young Bankman-Fried began his career as a trader at Jane Street Capital in 2014. He first became interested in cryptocurrencies after seeing opportunities for arbitrage trading.
Before founding Alameda, he focused on Japanese arbitrage trading, where he would purchase bitcoin in the US for one price then sell it for a 10% profit in Japan.
After not being impressed by existing exchanges in the market, Bankman-Fried partners with fellow MIT graduate Gary Wang and founds FTX. It’s important to note that FTX was incubated by Alameda Research and also received backing from Binance.
Since its launch, FTX has partnered with the MLB, it signed a $210 million deal with esports organization TSM, and it received naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena. The cryptocurrency exchange is also endorsed by the likes of supermodel Gisele Bundchen and quarterback Tom Brady. The cryptocurrency exchange was valued at over $1 billion.
Bankman-Fried’s popularity soars as he leads a growing number of fundraising rounds and incubates startups that go on to become some of crypto’s largest players. And that’s not to mention the pivotal role the FTX founder plays in a series of orchestrated bailouts of underwater digital asset firms caught off guard by severe market turbulence.
He bankrolls troubled lender BlockFi and acquires Canadian cryptoasset trading firm Bitvo and Voyager Digital’s assets. Bankman-Fried also makes his intentions clear around buying more crypto companies — and having the dry powder to do so.
Cracks begin to appear after Sam Trabucco from Alameda Research steps down as co-CEO. Although — on the outside — things seemed to be running smoothly, many market participants are shocked by his sudden resignation, which came with little notice and little explanation.
Soon after Trabucco’s resignation, FTX President Brett Harrison steps down and moves into an advisory role. The transition, like that of Trabucco, strikes market players as sudden.
In an earlier interview with Blockworks, Harrison briefly speaks of making crypto more accessible to institutions.
“Regulation isn’t the only thing holding them back,” Harrison said. “I’m looking forward to working further in this space.”
FTX is nudged by Texas state regulators claiming that FTX US’ yield-bearing account offerings are actually unregistered securities.
The same month, news breaks that Bankman-Fried has been donating large amounts of money (up to $50 million) to US political candidates and causes ahead of November’s midterm elections, which are considered pivotal for the future of digital asset regulation.
The real turning point, however, comes when a draft of the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act (DCCPA) is leaked to the public.
The DCCPA was considered a “DeFi killer” and was widely rejected by the crypto community. Even so, Bankman-Fried expressed support for the bill.
A CoinDesk report finds that Alameda’s balance sheets are largely made of FTX’s native FTT token — meaning that a few independent assets and fiat currencies are in the mix. Executives deny aspects of the story, saying it paints an incomplete picture that doesn’t reflect offsetting hedges the exchange has in place.
As speculation circulates, $584 million worth of FTT is transferred to Binance as part of a liquidation process. Zhao later confirms this was an intentional move.
This tweet, then led to a series of FTT withdrawals which pressured Caroline Ellison, CEO at Alameda Research, to offer to buy the cryptocurrency back at going market prices. She also tweeted that Alameda Research had $10 billion in assets that weren’t reported in the leaked balance sheet.
Ellison’s tweet did not ease tensions — in fact, rumors around Alameda Research having loans against FTT begin to circulate and concerns begin to bubble surrounding the value of other tokens held by Alameda.
The price of FTT continues to fall in the evening of Nov. 7, and Alameda begins to sell off solana (SOL) to keep the price of FTT above $22 — in the meantime, Zhao is selling FTT to purchase BNB.
Then, on the morning of Nov. 8, 24-hour withdrawals of USDC, one of the primary tokens held by Alameda Research, hits an all-time high on centralized exchange Coinbase.
The exchanges begin to clear withdrawal backlogs and resolve liquidity issues as executive and counterparties maneuver to settle due diligence matters and agree on final terms for the acquisition.
Michael Bodley contributed reporting.
This is a developing story.
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