FTX Group advisers are investigating the possibility of reclaiming millions of dollars paid to celebrities, including Shaquille O’Neal and Naomi Osaka, for their endorsements of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency platform before its collapse.
The financial advisers hired by FTX have examined the payments made to these athletes to determine if they can be recovered under the rules that allow companies to reverse transactions executed just before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Bloomberg reported, citing court documents.
While these disclosures do not provide a comprehensive overview of FTX’s endorsement spending, they shed light on how Bankman-Fried’s empire leveraged the fame of celebrity athletes, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) teams, and Formula 1 to enhance its brand visibility.
The extent to which FTX advisers believe the payments can be recovered, as well as whether any athletes or teams have already offered to return the funds, remains unknown.
FTX’s disclosures describe many of the transfers to athletes, teams, and leagues as prepayments associated with advertising or sponsorship agreements.
However, the exchange has cautioned that the financial disclosures may not be comprehensive due to a lack of detailed record-keeping.
The company’s new CEO, John J. Ray III, has admitted that FTX lacked reliable financial information at the time of filing for Chapter 11 and did not maintain complete financial records.
FTX also acknowledged the possibility that athletes, teams, or other parties may have withdrawn or offset deposits before the bankruptcy filing.
FTX Paid Millions to Professional Athletes and Teams
According to FTX’s disclosures, approximately $4.9 million was paid to MLB, which mandated umpires to wear FTX logo patches for a certain period.
The company also revealed at least $12.2 million related to partnership agreements with the Formula 1 racing team Mercedes-AMG Petronas.
Additionally, FTX disclosed $3.4 million in payments to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and nearly $242,000 in payments to Stephen Curry’s business, SC30 Inc.
FTX has indicated that a portion of the Formula 1-related payments and payments to the Golden State Warriors may potentially be reversed under Chapter 11.
Alvarez & Marsal, FTX’s financial adviser, has reportedly analyzed the possibility of undoing payments to the Warriors, including a $2 million transfer made approximately a month before FTX filed for bankruptcy.
Last year, FTX affiliate West Realm Shires Services Inc. revealed that it paid $2.5 million to an Authentic Brands Group subsidiary associated with O’Neal.
The same affiliate stated that it paid Osaka $2 million on November 9, 2022, just two days prior to Bankman-Fried’s resignation and the subsequent bankruptcy filing.
FTX attributed approximately $4.3 million in payments to O’Neal and his ABG business and approximately $3.2 million to Osaka for FTX partnership and endorsement deals.
Other athletes mentioned in FTX’s disclosures include Trevor Lawrence, the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who allegedly received a $500,000 payment in September 2022.
FTX also disclosed payments of around $600,000 to retired Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz and his charity, which supports children’s heart surgeries in the Dominican Republic and New England.
These disclosures follow FTX’s legal action against Kives and his venture capital firm, K5, to recover the estimated $700 million Bankman-Fried had invested in it.
The complaint claims that Bankman-Fried was a “profligate patron” who sent millions to Kives, K5 Global, and Baum after he attended a social event hosted by Kives in 2022.
FTX has sought the return of funds transferred from Alameda Research that ended up in SGN Albany Capital and funds transferred from Kives, Baum, and SGN Albany Capital to Mount Olympus Capital.