Semafor under fire for not returning investment in startup by FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried


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Semafor, a news site launched last month after getting a large infusion of cash from disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, has come under fire for staying mum about whether it will return the now-bankrupt crypto firm’s money.

Bankman-Fried was reportedly an initial investor in the $25 million raised by Semafor’s founders — former Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith and former New York Times media columnist and Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith.

After FTX imploded and filed for bankruptcy this month, there have been calls for Semafor to return the cash.

Semafor has not addressed the issue, stating to blogger Mickey Klaus that it is “monitoring the evolving situation closely.”

In his blog post entitled “Send it Back Ben,” Klaus wrote: “That’s nice, but actually, I wasn’t worried that Semafor wouldn’t be able to hold on to its Bankman bucks. The question more is: Will Semafor give the money back?”

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and chief executive officer of FTX, invested in a slew of media companies, including Semafor.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

He continued that “legally” the issue is murky, but that “morally,” it seems “open and shut.”

“Maybe Bankman-Fried wasn’t a felon…..but the stench of sleaze and scamming is unmistakable and familiar,” he wrote.

A Semafor rep did not return The Post’s request for comment.

Semafor’s credibility also came into question after it published an article about Bankman-Fried’s relationship with Elon Musk, claiming that the crypto CEO owned $100 million in Twitter since Musk took the company private.

Ben Smith
Ben Smith’s Semafor published a piece on Elon Musk’s ties to Sam Bankman-Fried, which was slammed by the Twitter CEO as a “lie.”
Getty Images

Musk denied the report and called out Ben Smith for failing to disclose how much Bankman-Fried, known as SBF, invested in his company.

“As I said, neither I nor Twitter have taken any investment from SBF/FTX. Your article is a lie. Now, I’m asking again, how much of you does SBF own?” Musk tweeted Wednesday.

Ben Smith replied: “Like you and many others, we took an investment from him. We have covered him aggressively, and disclose it every time we write about him.”

At launch in October, Semafor told Reuters that it “raised $25 million from investors including David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic magazine; Jessica Lessin, founder of technology website Information; and cryptocurrency exchange FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.”

As FTX unspooled, Bankman-Fried’s investments in other media companies like ProPublica, Vox Media, The Intercept and The Law and Justice Project were revealed, leaving critics to question whether his money impacted their coverage.

“They all took it,” Human Events Daily’s Jack Posobiec wrote on Twitter, “and none of them broke the story.”

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