Investor group offers to take over, revive Mt. Gox

TOKYO Fri Apr 11, 2014 6:39pm IST

Some of Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell's coins are pictured at his office in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah, January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/Files

Some of Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell's coins are pictured at his office in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah, January 31, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart/Files

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TOKYO (Reuters) - A group of investors have offered to take over the assets of Mt. Gox and revive the bankrupt bitcoin exchange with the help of experts including the investigative firm of a former FBI director, according to a court filing in Japan.

The offer, filed with the Tokyo District Court last month, marks the first time that anyone has submitted a proposal to sponsor the rehabilitation of Mt. Gox since it sought bankruptcy protection from creditors on February 28.

The group, which includes former child actor-turned entrepreneur Brock Pierce and venture capitalist William Quigley, made the offer through a special purpose company established in the Cyprus Republic, the court filing shows.

None of the principals of the company, called Sunlot Holdings Ltd., could be reached for comment. Alpha Partners Law Offices, which is representing Sunlot in Tokyo, declined to comment.

The proposal did not include an offer price, although the group said in the filing that it believed Mt. Gox's present enterprise value was zero.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the proposal, said the group was seeking to buy Mt. Gox for a token payment of one bitcoin, or about $400.

Mt. Gox shut down its exchange and filed for bankruptcy in February. At the time it said hackers had stolen 750,000 bitcoins belonging to its customers and 100,000 of its own bitcoins after exploiting a security flaw in its software.

But then in March Mt. Gox announced that it had discovered 200,000 bitcoins in an old-format online wallet, which it had thought was empty, raising creditors' hopes of recovering some of their lost digital wealth.

NEW MANAGEMENT, NEW SECURITY

The investment group proposed a new management team headed by John Betts, who founded a data management firm and has held positions in electronic trading at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in the past, according to his LinkedIn page.

The group said it would develop a new trading and security platform and review its relationship with banks as part of its effort to revive the exchange. It also proposed a forensic investigation.

In the filing, the group listed Freeh Group International Solutions, a firm established by former FBI director Louis Freeh that has carried out a series of investigations into high-profile scandals, among a team of advisers it planned to tap for Mt. Gox.

No one at the Freeh Group could immediately be reached for comment.

Under the group's proposal, creditors would have the option of receiving payment from the 200,000 recovered bitcoins or receiving the equivalent amount in equity in the new exchange, according to the filing.

The group said it would set aside 50 percent of its transaction fees to pay back burned customers and other creditors over time.

The group did not disclose what amount, if any, it was willing to put towards the operations of the revived firm. It would need about $8 million for the first 18 weeks of its revival plan, which would come out of Mt. Gox's cash until the online exchange system is back up and running, the filing shows.

The group will consider acquisitions and an initial public offering as part of a longer-term strategy for Mt. Gox, the filing said.

It is not clear whether the court will give Mt. Gox a chance to revive with the help of a sponsor such as Sunlot Holdings.

A court-appointed administrator has until May 9 to report on the results of an investigation into what led to Mt. Gox's collapse and whether it meets the criteria for rehabilitation under creditor protection or should be liquidated.

In the filing, the investor group said it had been in talks with Mt. Gox about its operations since January 2013 and was in negotiations about a stock transaction when the company filed for bankruptcy protection this year.

(With Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Jane Baird)

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