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Billionaire Bankman-Fried Triggers Surge in Robinhood Stock

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Billionaire Bankman-Fried Triggers Surge in Robinhood Stock
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(Bloomberg) -- Robinhood Markets Inc. has for months tried and failed to find ways to win investor approval. Turns out all it needed was a crypto billionaire’s vote of confidence.

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Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old chief executive officer of crypto trading platform FTX, revealed late Thursday that he’d bought a 7.6% stake in the struggling online brokerage, which has lost 77% since its July public debut.

The shares surged 22% to $10.42 at 9:43 a.m. Friday in New York. They touched $11.70 in after-market trading Thursday.

Bankman-Fried has said he intends to hold the stock as an investment and not to influence the company. But the disclosure comes at a critical time for Robinhood. Its plunge in value since its hotly anticipated initial public offering reflects rising concern that the retail trading phenomenon is losing steam.

That’s troublesome for Menlo Park, California-based Robinhood. It exploded in popularity during the pandemic, becoming synonymous with the retail boom as new investors stuck at home downloaded its app to trade through wild market swings, including run-ups in meme stocks and crypto. It amassed a stunning 22.7 million users by the end of 2021.

But trading activity, which makes up the bulk of its revenue, is starting to wane, and nothing it has tried so far has reversed the decline. Last month it said it would cut 9% of staff, roughly 340 employees.

Robinhood, founded by Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, has indicated that crypto is one of its top areas of focus for growth. Crypto revenue contributed to 18% of total net revenue in the first quarter, an increase from 13% in final three months of 2021.

In April, it added four new coins -- Compound, Polygon, Solana, and Shiba Inu -- after requests from customers, and agreed to buy U.K.-based crypto platform Ziglu Ltd. The company said it expects to add more coins over time.

Bankman-Fried acquired about 56.3 million shares in Robinhood through his Emergent Fidelity Technologies paying about $648.3 million, a regulatory filing showed. He started building the position in March, at times paying more than $13 a share and increased his purchases in May as the shares fell. His position is worth about $482 million based on Thursday’s closing price.

The crypto executive has a net worth of about $11.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He has said he plans to give all his money away to charity.

Read more: A 30-Year-Old Crypto Billionaire Wants to Give His Fortune Away

Tenev and Bhatt became billionaires after the IPO, but their fortunes have since slipped below that threshold. Still, they own shares with special voting rights that give them control of the company’s board.

(Updates share price in third paragraph.)

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