- Kevin O’Leary said he previously made $15 million as a brand ambassador for FTX.
- The “Shark Tank” host testified to the Senate Banking Committee earlier this week about his involvement with the company.
- O’Leary is among several celebrity defendants listed in a class-action lawsuit from FTX investors.
“Shark Tank” host and FTX investor Kevin O’Leary said he is giving Sam Bankman-Fried the benefit of the doubt in the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange.
Fresh off his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, O’Leary — who received $15 million from FTX as a brand ambassador — appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday, where he was grilled about his role in the company and Bankman-Fried’s alleged fraud.
“I don’t have the facts,” O’Leary said. “[New FTX CEO] John Ray doesn’t have them yet. He’s going to get them. I’m looking through my records. I’m willing to fund a forensic account of our accounts.”
He continued, appearing to defend Bankman-Fried at various points during discussions with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Joe Kernen, and Becky Quick.
“This is America. The justice system provides the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise,” O’Leary said.
Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday, where he is in custody after US federal prosecutors charged the former CEO on eight counts including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Meanwhile, O’Leary is among several celebrity defendants — including NFL star Tom Brady and comedian Larry David — listed in a class-action lawsuit for publicly promoting FTX before its demise.
In the interview, O’Leary defended himself and fellow investors, noting the nature of risk involved in venture capital.
“Obviously none of us would have wanted to be in this mess if we could’ve avoided it, but we just didn’t know,” he said. “Frankly venture investing is you could do all the due diligence you want, eight out of ten go to zero.”
O’Leary told CNBC he believes creditors who lost money in FTX should be paid back first, while shareholders who assumed the risk should accept the loss.
“The shareholders, of which I’m included, I don’t think we should get anything back,” he said. “We’re venture investors, we’re big boys, we lost our money, we understand it. I don’t want anything back there until the people who had money in their accounts get theirs back.”
In the same interview, O’Leary also defended himself against comments from Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, who called the “Shark Tank” television host a “liar.”
“Yesterday on the air, CZ called me a liar. That suggests I perjured myself in front of the US Senate for two hours this week. I can assure you that’s not the case,” O’Leary said.