The implosion of the crypto exchange FTX has been garnering headlines all weekend, but we're just beginning to unravel the mystery of one of the biggest personalities at the center of it all.
While FTX founder CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has been gobbling up the majority of the attention in the ongoing debacle, Caroline Ellison — the CEO of FTX sister company Alameda Research, which allegedly used FTX's customers' funds for trading and led to the whole meltdown — is now attracting significant interest as well.
According to CoinDesk, Ellison was at times romantically involved with Bankman-Fried while they and eight other people in the companies' orbits lived together at a house in the Bahamas. Those eight others were also all "paired up," the report notes, though it's unclear what structure those relationships took and whether they were monogamous or not — leading to widespread speculation that the group may have been involved in some sort of polyamorous relationship at the same time that they were building the now-obliterated crypto empire.
While we can't substantiate whether any of that is true, we can with some degree of certainty, assert that we've found Ellison's Tumblr blog — and, intriguingly, it does seem to contain clues about the polycule theory.
Under the handle "worldoptimization," the since-deleted blog — still accessible through the Wayback Machine — linked to Ellison's actual Twitter account back in March 2021. The timestamps on the Tumblr post and the month her Twitter was created seem to line up, meaning that if this is a fake, it's an extremely dedicated one, started by an impostor before this current scandal and even before Ellison became CEO.
If the Tumblr is legit, which seems overwhelmingly likely, it contains a number of posts that stick out as bizarre, objectionable, or downright cringe. Perhaps the goofiest of these is her list of attractive traits in a man, which includes, among other things, "controlling most major world governments" and "sufficient strength to physically overpower you."
The account also repeatedly referenced polyamory. In one post it described a "harem"-like situation that lends credence to the "FTX polycule" claims.
"When I first started my foray into poly, I thought of it as a radical break from my trad past, but tbh I've come to decide the only acceptable style of poly is best characterized as something like 'imperial Chinese harem,'" it reads. "None of this non-hierarchical bullshit; everyone should have a ranking of their partners, people should know where they fall on the ranking, and there should be vicious power struggles for the higher ranks."
Let's be clear: there's nothing wrong with polyamory, which many people practice in a fulfilling and ethical way.
But dating your coworkers, and particularly your subordinates or people over whom you have financial sway, is almost never a good idea because it can easily lead to power imbalances, conflicts of interest, and other unpleasant workplace dynamics.
And the way Ellison's apparent account describes the dynamic, even if it's a misfired attempt at a joke, sounds seriously toxic. Vicious power struggles in a relationship? No thanks!
Judging by the spectacular implosion of FTX — a fracas that's shaken the foundations of the entire crypto market, impacting essentially everyone invested in the space — it seems clear that whatever style of relationships did dominate this particular workplace, they didn't end well.
One thing's for sure: this saga keeps surprising us. Let's just hope it doesn't end up giving the wider polyamory community a bad name.
More on the FTX fiasco: The FTX Collapse is So Egregious That Even the Bahamas Are Investigating