As lawyers, judges and a collection of angry international bitcoin investors try to piece together how exactly nearly half a billion dollars in bitcoins managed to disappear into thin air from Mt. Gox’s “vaults”, a disturbing picture of the company’s disgraced founder and CEO Mark Kapeles is starting to emerge.
At one point Mt. Gox was the largest bitcoin processor in the world, at its height handling 80% of all bitcoin trading, with trading volume of about 150,000 bitcoins a day. The company reportedly had over a million users, and, as it turns out, simply wasn’t able to handle its massive upswing in size.
“It was similar to the early days of the Internet,” said Bobby Lee, an early bitcoin adopter who is now chief executive of bitcoin exchange BTC China, told The Wall Street Journal. “There was no infrastructure and no secure way to store bitcoin,” he said. “It was just this Wild West thing.”
The company first ran into trouble when it came under federal scrutiny for suspected money laundering. Then their main Japanese bank sought to end its relationship with Mt. Gox, as wire transfers began stacking up. Finally, after the massive theft of bitcoins that was revealed in early 2014, the company has moved toward bankruptcy and liquidation.
What remains surprising in this already bizarre story is the attitude of Karpeles as his company was going down the drain. The CEO reportedly spent his nights watching anime and Breaking Bad and his days planning a coffee shop he was planning to open in the building the exchange was run out of. The notoriously micro-managing CEO was reportedly consulting with coffee experts while employees were standing outside expressing concerns over the company’s future.
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