Investor Group Seeks Court OK to Buy, Revive Bankrupt Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox
Buyers Would Offer Creditors 20% Payout or Equity in Revived Exchange
Michael J. Casey And Takashi Mochizuki
Updated April 10, 2014 4:57 p.m. ET
A group of investors with Hollywood ties is seeking to revive bankrupt bitcoin-trading exchange Mt. Gox, according to people familiar with the matter.
The investor group, which includes Brock Pierce, a former child actor-turned technology entrepreneur, is offering a token payment of one bitcoin, or about $400, to buy the exchange outright, according to these people. The acquisition must be approved by a Japanese bankruptcy court.
Mt. Gox collapsed in February after disclosing that 750,000 bitcoins belonging to customers had vanished, along with an additional 100,000 bitcoins owned by the virtual-currency exchange. Since then, about 200,000 bitcoins have been recovered and are part of the exchange's assets.
The investor group hopes to revive the exchange and set aside 50% of its transaction fees to pay back burned customers and other creditors over time, according to documents filed to the Japanese bankruptcy court and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The near-zero valuation of the proposed deal could to be a hurdle in bankruptcy court.
According to people familiar with the plan, the group is justifying the low price because of the "information vacuum" over Mt. Gox's 550,000 missing bitcoins, currently worth about $220 million. It isn't possible to place a value on the lost coins, they said.
Creditors, who have been stuck in limbo since their accounts were frozen, would have the option of receiving a prorated payment from the 200,000 recovered bitcoins, an estimated 20% recovery value on their claims, or receiving the equivalent amount in equity in the new exchange.
Launched in 2009, bitcoin is a computer-driven currency that isn't backed by a central bank. Users "mine," or create, bitcoins by tapping high-powered computers to answer complex mathematical problems. The coins are stored in digital wallets that have proven to be susceptible to hacking.
Bitcoin's price soared to more than $1,100 in November before plunging as Chinese government officials clamped down on bitcoin trading and Mt. Gox lurched toward bankruptcy. The Tokyo exchange halted customer withdrawals in dollars last year, and in February stopped allowing customers to withdraw money in any currency.
The potential revival of Mt. Gox, which had struggled with technical problems for months before its collapse, comes at a critical time for the virtual currency. A wave of big investors are pouring money into startup bitcoin businesses, but price volatility and regulatory scrutiny are creating uncertainty about the currency's long-term prospects.
Mr. Pierce, 33 years old, appeared in "The Mighty Ducks" movie series in the 1990s, and has since become an investor focused on technology companies.
Other investors in the group include venture capitalists William Quigley, the managing director of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Clearstone Venture Partners and a former financial director Disney Inc.'s licensing businesses; and Matthew Roszak, a partner at Chicago-based SilkRoad Equity, a venture-capital firm. John Betts, who ran electronic trading platforms at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., would be the chief executive of the proposed new firm, according to the plan.