Mon, Apr 17, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Firm built on research of bitcoin’s ‘creator’ sold

Reuters, SINGAPORE and SYDNEY

A company built around the research of Craig Wright, who claims to have invented the bitcoin cryptocurrency, has been sold to a private equity firm in a deal the company said is the biggest to date involving bitcoin’s underlying blockchain technology.

The deal swings the spotlight once again onto Wright, a 46-year-old computer scientist who is the cryptocurrency’s most controversial figure.

He hopes to remain central to the technology’s future, telling reporters that the goal is to build bitcoin into a global “system with no ruler, no king.”

“We will scale and grow bitcoin to become what it was envisioned to be,” he said. “All I do is to help grow the use of bitcoin and I want to see it in daily use by at least a billion people on-chain. We have the funds, the people and the technology to do this.”

NCHAIN HOLDINGS

According to a news release on Thursday, Malta-based High Tech Private Equity Fund SICAV PLC bought nChain Holdings, “the world leader in blockchain-centric research and development.”

It put no value on the deal and did not mention Wright.

Reuters previously identified nChain, formerly known as EITC Holdings, as Wright’s vehicle for filing hundreds of bitcoin and blockchain-related patents.

UK records confirm that the target company — under both its EITC and nChain names — already filed more than 80 bitcoin and blockchain-related patents.

A person close to the deal said US$300 million had been invested in nChain, but it was not clear over what period of time.

The Maltese fund did not respond to e-mails asking for comment.

Reuters last year reported that EITC planned to file hundreds of patents related to blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The financial industry and others are exploring its potential.

The fund is managed by Liechtenstein-based Accuro Fund Solutions, part of Zurich-based Accuro Group.

Accuro did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Wright remains a divisive figure in the bitcoin world.

After failing to convince many in the bitcoin community that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Wright last year retreated from view.

Reuters last month reported that Wright was working with Canadian online gambling tycoon Calvin Ayre to build a patent portfolio, although its purpose was not clear.

Ayre was not immediately available for comment.

In an e-mailed response to questions, nChain said that neither Ayre nor Wright had a stake in it before or after the sale.

It said the company previously acquired Wright’s assets and intellectual property, and he now held the post of chief scientist.

FOUNDING FATHER?

Although it was not possible to confirm Wright’s identity as Nakamoto, a Reuters investigation found he was deeply involved in the early development of bitcoin, and had told Australian tax officials he possessed more than 1 million bitcoin — worth US$1.2 billion at the current exchange rate.

Patent lawyers have said that open-source technologies like bitcoin are not easy to patent and even if patents are approved, they are not always easy to defend.

Thursday’s announcement was the first time nChain has publicly acknowledged it is filing patents.

Without confirming how many bitcoins he owns, Wright told reporters he would never “dump bitcoin.”

“I will sell when I do this for goods on a daily basis, or I will go down with it. Past the basics of my family’s well-being, all I have is dedicated to building the systems and institutions needed to make bitcoin successful globally,” he said.

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