DUBAI: Anthony Scaramucci, the Wall Street banker who founded the investment firm SkyBridge Capital and the thought-leadership forum SALT, remains firm in his conviction that 2023 will be the “year of recovery” for the cryptocurrency industry.
He does not dispute that 2022 was a terrible year for crypto assets, with billions wiped off the market, a number of companies shutting down and bitcoin losing about 60 percent of its value. But appearing on “Frankly Speaking,” the weekly current-affairs talkshow of Arab News, he said: “The good news for the crypto industry is that things move very quickly.
“In the case of bitcoin, it is probably up right now roughly 30 to 40 percent. It is volatile, so it’s moving around a lot. But it’s been a very good start of the year for cryptocurrency … . It was a slight setback in February, but the crypto markets remain strong. And I maintain my view that this will be a recovery year for crypto.”
Speaking from Abu Dhabi, where he was attending the second Investopia conference, Scaramucci touched on a wide range of topics during the interview, lauded the economic opportunities in the Gulf region, and confirmed plans to take the SALT conference to Riyadh.
As with many notable businessmen, he has experienced his fair share of economic ups and downs.
Last year, Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, paid $45 million for a 30 percent share of SkyBridge Capital, an investment firm founded by Scaramucci.
The deal fell through after FTX went bust and the former billionaire was charged in December with a litany of crimes including wire fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations.
As one of Wall Street’s toughest investment bankers, does he consider the decision to give 30 percent of his business to SBF the worst deal of his life?
“I didn’t give him the business. He purchased the business and paid $45 million for it. We are in the process now of buying that back from the bankruptcy court,” said Scaramucci, who also briefly served in the Trump administration in 2017.
“I trusted him. I was close to his father, had the opportunity to spend time with his mother, both of whom were tenured professors at Stanford Law School. And so that was a real betrayal to me. I thought that he was going to build a next-generation cryptocurrency exchange, basically an exchange and a tokenization model for many different assets.
“But of course, he was a fraud. And when that was uncovered, I was very disappointed.”
Scaramucci said he wanted to make an important point in this regard. “I brought (SBF) to Saudi Arabia and I brought him here to the UAE. And if I hadn’t done that, I don’t think that that fraud would’ve unraveled as quickly as it did,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”
“Sometimes things happen for a reason. There’s a silver lining perspective to certain things. But that was certainly my worst business deal. I don’t think anything comes close to how bad that was.”
According to Scaramucci, SkyBridge will be able to buy back its shares in bankruptcy court, and the firm has many “long-term committed investors that have ridden many cycles with SkyBridge.”
Comparing his bruising experience with SBF to being a White House adviser for just 11 days in July 2017, Scaramucci said: “I would say that was way worse than working for President Trump … as ill-fated as it was for me and ultimately being fired from the administration after 11 days.”
He said there was also a silver lining to briefly being Trump’s director of communications. “It increased my profile; it gave me an opportunity to speak out against some of the things that the president was doing, that were against the values of the American people. I had a platform to do that. And I learned a lot,” he said.
“It was a very humbling experience, for those reasons way more psychologically minded, and so I value that time. The mistake with Sam, though, is a totally different situation.”
With the 2024 US elections on the horizon, Trump has announced his intention to run again. Though critical of his former boss after leaving the White House, Scaramucci says that the former president may have a chance at nomination.
“As critical as I’ve been of President Trump, I want to be objective. Right now, we only have Nikki Haley as another announced candidate. But if there are 10 or 12 Republicans that are going to compete with Trump for the Republican nomination, I believe he will win that nomination because he has a very strong base,” he said.
Scaramucci initially supported Trump for much of his tenure. “When Mr. Trump went after the four congresswomen in our Congress and basically said they needed to go back to the countries they originally came from, that was a bridge too far from me,” he said, adding that the events of Jan. 6 at the US Capitol and Trump’s refusal to assist the incoming administration with the transition soured his opinion of the former president.
When asked about the rumors that he himself might run for president in 2024, Scaramucci responded with the quip: “I am running for re-election of my marriage, OK. I’m not running for anything other than that.”