Michael Lewis (Once Again) Tells the Biggest Story in Finance

Image: a house made of precariously-stacked playing cards on a wooden table.

Today’s post is by SaaS copywriter Alexander Lewis (@alexander-j-lewis).

Michael Lewis hit the story of a lifetime when he published his bestselling book, The Big Short, about the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Looking back, Lewis seemed to be the right person at the right time and place to capture the biggest financial story of a generation.

It was the ultimate setup. Before writing The Big Short, Lewis was already regarded as a world-class storyteller. Plus, he had the advantage of coming from a career in finance. Lewis had even made a name for himself in financial journalism through his debut book, Liar’s Poker. Mix in Lewis’ southern charm and we might begin to understand how he pulled such a rich and detailed story from an otherwise tight-lipped industry.

But that’s a once-in-a-career finance story, right?

Well, not for Michael Lewis. A few months ago, during an interview with Financial News, Lewis gave his readers a small clue regarding the subject of his next book. Lewis said, “I guess it is possible it will be framed as a crypto book, but it won’t be a crypto book… It’ll be about this really unusual character.”

In recent weeks, the financial world has watched closely as one of the largest crypto exchanges, FTX, endured its public fall. The details of which—including probable fraud, a major hack and theft to the tune of $400 million, and a feud between crypto founders—are still coming to light.

The story may go down as one of the largest instances of fraud ever. And guess who is already at the heart of the story?

Creative Artists Agency announced that Michael Lewis has spent the past six months interviewing FTX founder, Sam Bankman-Fried. The news came to light when Lewis’ representatives began shopping the story around Hollywood to sell the movie rights. For now, Lewis and his team have provided only limited details about the project, but given that Lewis was working with Bankman-Fried for half a year before FTX’s fall, it’s safe to say that there’s much more to this already captivating story. 

Right time and place, once again, Mr. Lewis.

Central to most of Michael Lewis’ works are larger-than-life characters who find themselves at the center of major industry or societal shifts. As Lewis once told The Guardian, “I am not an essayist… I need characters. If I don’t have a character, I can’t find my way into a story.” Lewis seems to seek out people, rather than mere stories, which may be the real secret behind his uncanny ability to find once-in-a-career journalism material.

There has perhaps been no larger financial change since the 2008 crisis than the introduction of crypto as both a technology and an asset class. Lewis, presumably, wanted to find and tell a human story at the center of this big movement.

Lewis could not have foreseen the epic tale of controversy, hacks, and potential fraud that has transpired in recent weeks at FTX. But perhaps what Lewis did see, many months before anyone else, was a deeply human story of cutthroat competition between two opposing charismatic founders, Sam Bankman-Fried at FTX and Changpeng Zhao at the crypto exchange, Binance. All Lewis did was put himself at the center of that human story, just in time to watch FTX fall apart—and Lewis’ story fall into place.

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