Shaquille O’Neal needs to make one factor clear: He would not imagine in crypto, if he ever did.
That is after being named in a class-action lawsuit towards now-bankrupt cryptocurrency trade FTX final month, for selling the corporate in a June business.
In an interview with CNBC Make It this week, the 50-year-old businessman and Basketball Corridor of Famer took questions on his relationship with FTX whereas discussing his different enterprise ventures.
O’Neal has a protracted historical past of investing in firms he promotes, together with his present enterprise, Shaq’s Enjoyable Home, an annual part-festival, part-carnival occasion. These investments typically pan out: O’Neal makes extra off the court docket than he did as an NBA star, he informed HBO’s “Actual Sports activities with Bryant Gumbel” in 2018.
However in terms of FTX, he says, he was merely a celeb in an advert.
“Lots of people suppose I am concerned, however I used to be only a paid spokesperson for a business,” O’Neal says.
FTX collapse ensnares celeb buyers
On Tuesday, the U.S. Securities and Trade Fee accused FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried of orchestrating a “brazen” years-long fraud, misusing customer funds to benefit himself and his crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research.
Bankman-Fried was arrested on Monday by Bahamian authorities, likely leading to extradition and a U.S. trial, CNBC reported. He’ll face at least eight charges from federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, including several counts of conspiracy and fraud.
Customers have been unable to withdraw funds from FTX since the company declared bankruptcy last month. As many as one million creditors, according to an FTX bankruptcy filing, are unsure if they’ll ever get their money back.
The class-action lawsuit naming O’Neal is a legal proceeding separate from the federal government’s charges. It alleges that FTX’s spokespeople “either controlled, promoted, assisted in [or] actively participated” in a plot to “aggressively market” the company.
Other athletes and celebrities from FTX’s commercials — including Steph Curry, Tom Brady, and comedian Larry David — were also named in the lawsuit. Texas is now separately investigating some celebrity FTX endorsers for potentially violating state securities laws, according to Bloomberg.
‘I don’t understand [crypto], so I will probably stay away’
The ex-basketball star’s commercial was somewhat of a surprise: Last year, O’Neal told CNBC Make It that he was actively avoiding cryptocurrency.
“I don’t understand it, so I will probably stay away from it until I get a full understanding of what it is,” he said, adding: “From my experience, it is too good to be true.”
O’Neal told Front Office Sports last year that he’d declined promotional offers from various crypto entities.
“I always get these companies that say, ‘Hey, we’ll give you $900,000 in crypto to send out a tweet,'” O’Neal said. “So I have to say, ‘OK, if you’re going to give me a million dollars worth of crypto, then why do you need me?'”
He may have had a change of heart in late 2021, though: Over the past year, O’Neal changed his Twitter display name to “SHAQ.ETH” and “SHAQ.SOL” to advertise NFT collections underpinned by the Ethereum and Solana cryptocurrency platforms.
“I am excited to be partnering with FTX to assist make crypto accessible to everybody,” O’Neal mentioned within the June business. “I am all in. Are you?”
Right now, O’Neal cites his friendship with Curry as a motive he consented to look within the advert. A spokesperson for Curry declined to remark.
Within the advert, O’Neal informed viewers that he checked his FTX account day by day. However when requested now if he is bullish on crypto, he gives a easy response: “No.”
“Folks know I am very, very trustworthy,” O’Neal says. “I’ve nothing to cover. If I used to be closely concerned, I might be on the forefront saying, ‘Hey.’ However I used to be only a paid spokesperson.”
It is unclear how a lot cash O’Neal constructed from his FTX endorsement deal. Investor and entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary, who additionally endorsed FTX and is known as within the swimsuit, informed CNBC’s “Squawk Field” final week that he was paid $15 million by FTX, and misplaced all of it: $9.7 million that he’d invested with FTX, greater than $1 million in FTX fairness and roughly $4 million in taxes and agent charges.
O’Leary mentioned the cash he misplaced was his alone. “We have to resolve what occurred at FTX, however we won’t let its collapse trigger us to desert the good promise and potential of crypto,” he testified to the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday.
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