NASSAU, Bahamas—Sam Bankman-Fried’s $32 billion crypto-trading empire collapsed in an incandescent bankruptcy last week, prompting irate customers, crypto acolytes and Silicon Valley bigwigs to ask how something that seemed so promising could have imploded so fast.
The emerging picture suggests FTX wasn’t simply felled by a rival, or undone by a bad trade or the relentless fall this year in the value of cryptocurrencies. Instead, it had long been a chaotic mess. From its earliest days, the firm was an unruly agglomeration of corporate entities, customer assets and Mr. Bankman-Fried himself, according to court papers, company balance sheets shown to bankers and interviews with employees and investors. No one could say exactly what belonged to whom. Prosecutors are now investigating its collapse.