The “Gox Rising” proposal aims to relaunch the disgraced Mt. Gox cryptocurrency exchange, pay off all remaining creditors, and make sure victims of the sudden closure of the trading post will not be left out of pocket — but the scheme relies on working out who actually owns Mt. Gox.
Cryptocurrency advocate and billionaire Brock Pierce is the figurehead for the movement, which calls itself “a community of creditors and industry experts” that aspires to “maximize creditor recovery through quick payout of the estate’s current $1.2 billion in assets.”
Tokyo-based Mt. Gox collapsed in 2014, leaving 650,000 Bitcoin unaccounted for and traders without any means to access their funds.
The former CEO of the Bitcoin exchange, Mark Karpeles, was arrested by Japanese authorities on charges of embezzlement and data manipulation.
Mt. Gox then filed for bankruptcy in both the United States and Japan.
The road has been an arduous one for former users that are still owed, and while a rehabilitation order is in process, another barrier to recovery was established last week after a single claimant, Coinlab founder Peter Vessenes, demanded $16 billion from Mt. Gox creditors on the basis of a breached customer-access licensing deal.
Now, another potential roadblock is in play due to the launch of Gox Rising.
On the surface, the organization appears to be investor-focused. There are five goals (.PDF) — to inform creditors of any movement on restitution, to speed up the payment process, to maximize distribution to creditors, to attempt to find the Bitcoin which went missing, and finally, to revive the exchange.
However, in order to revive Mt. Gox, Pierce would have to own it.
A letter of intent seen by ZDNet lays the groundwork for a firm called Sunlot and its chairman, Brock Pierce, to acquire Mt. Gox. Dated March 2014, the letter sets out terms for a potential purchase from Tibanne. Both Pierce and Karpeles signed, however, no price is mentioned, nor is there a shareholder agreement and no payment was made. Due diligence was set to end in April.
Mt. Gox went into meltdown before any formal acquisition was finalized or approved by Japanese authorities.
The LOI was then rescinded a month later, stating that as the letter was sent “without the approval of the Tokyo District Court and the court-appointed supervisor.” (However, it is worth noting that the copy available was only signed by Karpeles and not Pierce).
If Pierce is to claim ownership of Mt. Gox assets in order to resurrect the exchange, he needs to prove that Karpeles sold his stake.
However, the news of Gox Rising caused a clash between Piece and Karpeles on Twitter. When asked to confirm a report that the sale had been arranged for a single Bitcoin in return for Karpeles’ 88 percent stake, the former Mt. Gox CEO vehemently denied such a move.
“No. No purchase agreement was ever even drafted, and the court didn’t approve the LOI,” Karpeles said. “I didn’t hear of the price until recently either, and Tibanne has no record of any payment for the shares. MtGox official shareholders list doesn’t list Brock Pierce anywhere.”
If confirmed, together with the alleged purchase of a 12 percent stake belonging to Jed McCaleb, Pierce would own Mt. Gox outright.
In response, Pierce said:
“Mark knows he sold his 88%. He even sent a letter of confirmation asking me to rescind the agreement shortly after signing. I want creditors to receive the entire surplus. Mark is hoping to pocket the $700 – $800m. Do you trust Karpeles?”
Whether or not the cryptocurrency exchange receives a reboot, however, is likely far from the minds of many investors that lost their savings after the Mt. Gox collapse. They have endured years of uncertainty and waiting, and may yet receive nothing.
Should the courts now have to face a fight over the owners of the exchange as well as the $16 billion claim already causing delays for creditors, the Mt. Gox saga may go on for years more.