Like other successful entrepreneurs at a young age, Sam Trabucco had a taste of the high life.
He bought a multi-million dollar yacht and condo overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and partied with his friends in Las Vegas and the Bahamas last year.
Then, just before his 30th birthday, he quit his top job at Alameda Research, the trading company associated with crypto exchange FTX – just before everything fell apart behind him.
Trabucco was a key leader in Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire. He was co-chief executive of Alameda until August. In November, FTX and Alameda imploded within days as a run on deposits revealed that Alameda had lost billions of dollars in FTX client funds.
Now the companies are facing bankruptcy proceedings and an extensive criminal investigation, and several former Trabucco colleagues have been charged with fraud. Authorities allege that Bankman-Fried orchestrated the scheme, in which Alameda used funds from FTX clients to support its business operations and provide loans to executives, among other things. Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty.
Investigators have charged FTX co-founder Gary Wang and former Alamedaco CEO Caroline Ellison with fraud and other violations. Ellison and Wang agreed to plead guilty in late December and cooperated with investigators.
Trabucco, on the other hand, did not figure as prominently in the legal proceedings as his former colleagues. He has not been charged and it is not publicly known whether he is cooperating with investigators.
Neither Trabucco nor his family members would comment publicly.
A review by Globe of his public interviews, ownership records and social media posts and friends, as well as interviews with half a dozen acquaintances, reveals that Trabucco was similar to his FTX and Alameda peers. , but also different in important respects.
On the one hand, Trabucco and the other directors showed immense talent in mathematics as children and attended prestigious schools. Long before working together, Trabucco, Bankman-Fried, Wang and Ellison crossed paths in competitive mathematical circles.
But Bankman-Fried and some of his lieutenants were also followers of “effective altruism,” a charitable movement that encourages successful people to use their wealth to do as much good as possible. Trabucco, on the other hand, had a more classic motivation: Crypto was a way for him to make a lot of money.
Trabucco grew up in Natick and attended Roxbury Latin School, a private boys’ high school. The son of a Wellesley College campus police officer and a preschool teacher, he has described himself in video interviews as “one of those math kidswho liked solving puzzles more than playing outside.
He competed in math contests, sometimes against Ellison, who attended Newton North High School. For two summers, he participated in Mathcamp, a highly selective five-week program designed to expose high school students to advanced mathematical concepts.
At Mathcamp, Trabucco rode Wang in 2008, the summer before their sophomore year of high school, and he first met Bankman-Fried there in 2010, when the program was held at Mount Holyoke College.
“When I realized I was good at math, even back when I thought the outcome was, ‘Oh, I could win math contests,’ I really went crazy for it,” said Trabucco on a podcast. “Almost at the expense of most other skills I could have developed in my life.”
He then studied mathematics and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Wang was in the same class and Bankman-Fried a year ahead of them. Bankman-Fried graduated in 2014, while Trabucco and Wang graduated in 2015.
After college, Stanford University math graduates Trabucco, Bankman-Fried and Ellison worked at quantitative trading companies. Trabucco moved to Philadelphia and joined Susquehanna International Group, where he interned during his freshman year.
“Alumni of math programs in general, Mathcamp included, often end up in finance or lucrative careers,” said Daniel Zaharopol, chairman of Mathcamp’s board of directors.
Then crypto caught his eye. Trabucco started trading cryptocurrencies with his own money and saw an arbitrage opportunity, which involved buying and selling crypto in different markets, taking advantage of the price difference.
Trabucco admitted that he “didn’t really have a strong opinion on the technology or the meaning of crypto.” For him, it was about getting rich.
“I was really just…finding it irresponsible not to focus on [crypto] when I could make more money doing this than anything I was aware of,” he said during a video interview in 2021.
Trabucco left Susquehanna in 2017 and moved to San Francisco. Bankman-Fried started Alameda Research that year, and at one point the two had dinner, leading Trabucco to join the company as a trader.
A former Alameda employee said Trabucco was a “generally reserved person but felt comfortable in the office.” They said he was passionate about things like business, numbers, trivia and crossword puzzles. (Some of his puzzle submissions have been published by The New York Times.)
“Some of us were getting together and trying to solve his crossword,” the former employee wrote in a message to The Globe.
Mathematics was an integral part of Alameda’s work culture. Traders tried to gauge the “expected value” of different scenarios, choosing the one with the most lucrative likely outcome, regardless of the magnitude of the risk.
But there was another big idea on the minds of some Alameda and FTX leaders: effective altruism, which in their world meant using evidence and reasoning to figure out how best to help people. Bankman-Fried has publicly spoken of wanting reveal most of his fortune to charitable causes that could benefit mankind. Ellison wrote on his now-deleted Tumblr blog that “money is too easy. … Making the future look like I want it to look like really seems like the only worthwhile goal.
Effective altruism could mean, for example, providing medical supplies to a developing country where a particular disease is rampant or donating only to organizations with a proven track record of positive social change.
By all accounts, Trabucco was not interested in the philosophy of effective altruism and did not participate in it. He got into crypto to make money. And he certainly did.
In 2020, he bought a four-bedroom home in Wells, Maine for $500,000, where it appears his parents now live. The following year, he bought a 3,800 square foot luxury condo in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge for nearly $9 million. Trabucco also purchased a 52ft boat and named it “Soak My Deck”.
The former Alameda employee said it didn’t appear Trabucco was part of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, which included Ellison, Wang and Nishad Singh, the former director of engineering at FTX. This group also launched the FTX Future Fund, the now closed charitable arm of FTX., without Trabucco.
“I guess these 4 things shared between them that weren’t shared with Trabucco,” the former employee wrote to The Globe.
Nevertheless, Trabucco and Ellison were promoted from traders to co-CEOs of Alameda in the fall of 2021. Both lived in Hong Kong, where Alameda had relocated, and also spent time working in the Bahamas, where Bankman-Fried and FTX were based.
Trabucco and Ellison have publicly stated that FTX and Alameda operate as separate companies, although they are both owned by Bankman-Fried.
“To be clear, I work for Alameda, not FTX,” Trabucco said in a video interview, weeks before his promotion. “They are both founded by Sam Bankman-Fried but, yes, completely different.”
However, prosecutors said Alameda was given special privileges on the FTX exchange, which gave it the ability to borrow a “virtually unlimited” amount of money, among other benefits. Investigators have accused Alameda of using billions of dollars in FTX client funds to repay its own loans to other lenders, as well as loan money to executives.
During her plea hearing, Ellison admitted that she knew about the arrangement and helped facilitate it.
During his final months as co-CEO, Trabucco surrounded himself with friends and travelled.
In the spring of 2022, former MIT classmates visited him in the Bahamas. In July, he travels to Las Vegas during MIT’s Mega-Pia reunion held 3.14 years after graduation that combined multiple classes due to the pandemic.
In October – two months after leaving Alameda – Trabucco returned to the Bahamas for his 30th birthday, celebrating with a cake that had his face printed on it, according to his friend’s Instagram account.
That was a month before things got bad at Alameda and FTX. And since the collapse, Trabucco has left social media and hasn’t spoken publicly.
“Much love to everyone”, Trabucco wrote in his last Twitter post on November 8, as the FTX saga began to unfold. “I’m sure the past few days have been dark for many and I hope the path ahead is clearer.”
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