From Alameda chief to bankrupting FTX, meet Caroline Ellison

Listen to this article.

Caroline Ellison was the sole chief exec of Alameda Research at the time of its demise. Her company used money from customers of its sister company FTX without their consent and in direct violation of FTX’s own terms of service.

Alameda Research was never based in Alameda, California — nor was it a research company. Instead, it was founded in nearby Berkeley as a crypto day trading company. Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) deliberately chose the generic name to mislead Japanese bank workers away from Alameda’s actual business activities, since they were directed to deny checking account openings from crypto applicants.

Like SBF, Ellison previously worked at quantitative trading firm Jane Street Capital. Ellison then moved to Alameda Research in March 2018, where she shared CEO duties with Sam Trabucco. When Trabucco resigned in August this year — just three months before bankruptcy — she became the sole CEO.

Sam Trabucco bought $8.7M in real estate and a yacht while CEO of FTX.

Read more: Scoop: Ex-Alameda exec Sam Trabucco bought millions in property pre-collapse

Caroline Ellison’s relationship with SBF and FTX

In the wake of the collapse of SBF’s empire, the media naturally probed Ellison’s personal life

She explained that she liked Harry Potter as a young child, saying that she read the second book when she was five years old. She owned a golden doodle puppy named Gopher.

For years, Ellison has had an on-and-off romantic relationship with SBF. A credible yet unconfirmed rumor circulated that Ellison was the “ex-girlfriend” that SBF tried to blame for the issues leading up to the collapse.

The rumor was further fueled by a CoinDesk report indicating that SBF, Ellison, and a few other senior executives shared a luxury penthouse in the Bahamas. It’s likely some of them, referred to as “a gang of kids” by one unnamed employee, dated each other.

The Bahamas-based executives controlled as much as possible and shared little with junior employees, perhaps knowing that those outside the inner circle could talk to the media. After the bankruptcy, many did decide to speak out. They described how conflicts of interest were common, and noted that there was very little scrutiny from regulators.

Attorney and insolvency expert John J. Ray III took over FTX after it filed for bankruptcy. Ellison became one of a few senior executives whom he dismissed.

Ellison’s possible use of 4chan to promote altcoins

Ellison might have used one of several anonymous social media accounts that posted frequently about digital assets on 4chan’s /biz board throughout 2021. That ring of accounts was accused of activities like manipulating the price of altcoins like WAVES.

It will be difficult to confirm which account, if any, belonged specifically to Ellison, particularly as she might not have been the only Alameda Research employee who used 4chan. A group of them shilled coins that also happened to be on Alameda Research’s balance sheets ⏤ which may not have been a coincidence.

Unlike SBF, who’s on a prolific media tour in an attempt to present himself in the best possible light, Ellison has remained publicly silent since the collapse. She’s not tweeted since November 9.

Behind the scenes, she could have worked out a deal with law enforcement to share information. Once rumored to be hiding in Hong Kong, she was recently spotted in New York City.

For more informed news, follow us on Twitter and Google News or listen to our investigative podcast Innovated: Blockchain City.