“Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary defended his paid ambassadorship for failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday.
“This is America,” O’Leary told the “Squawk Box” panel of Andrew Ross Sorkin, Joe Kernen and Betty Quick.
“Are you still calling yourself a venture investor?” Kernen asked O’Leary. “Your venture investing was your name being able to [be] used as a spokesperson? Are you still conflating money you got paid by FTX that you lost, or did you actually invest some of your own funds?”
“Money is fungible,” O’Leary retorted, referring to the $10 million in FTX cryptocurrencies given to him as part of his compensation as a paid spokesperson.
Venture capital investors traditionally invest their own money or that of a fund they work for, as opposed to receiving in-kind goods or services.
When pressed, O’Leary pointed out that he has 54 companies in his investment portfolio.
Sorkin continued to grill O’Leary, also known as “Mr. Wonderful” on the ABC show: “Kevin, you are an actor in this drama, and you had a front-row seat to [former FTX CEO Sam] Bankman-Fried up until the very end. What do you think happened? Do you think this was a fraud?”
O’Leary: “I don’t have the facts. [New FTX CEO] John Ray doesn’t have them yet. He’s going to get them. I’m looking through my records. I’m willing to fund a forensic account of our accounts.
“There are a lot of bad things that have been alleged here—and a lot of them are going to be true, likely,” O’Leary continued. “I understand that the herd is angry. Companies advertise, and they do it this way.”
Sorkin shot back by asking Mr. Wonderful about his calling bitcoin “garbage” in a 2019 TV appearance.
“Then I’m wrong about that,” O’Leary said. “The point is, it was long before I became a paid spokesperson. Long before.”
The small-screen star, known for his crusty quips, managed to have the last say: “I love getting sandpapered by you guys every day.”
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