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The bankrupt Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange took another step toward oblivion today (Wednesday) when the Tokyo District Court dismissed its application for civil rehabilitation and steered it on a path to liquidation.
The ruling kills any possibility of Mt. Gox Chief Executive Officer Mark Karpeles rebuilding the Bitcoin exchange under bankruptcy protection.
"There are no prospects for the restart of the business," Karpeles said in a statement on the otherwise dormant Mt. Gox website.
The court, having determined that "it would be difficult for the company to carry out the civil rehabilitation proceedings," appointed a provisional administrator, lawyer Nobuaki Kobayashi, to take control of what remains of the defunct Bitcoin exchange's assets.
"I will strive to fairly and equitably administer the company's assets, both domestically and internationally, by attempting to utilize certain foreign procedures, including a Chapter 15 filing in the United States of America," Kobayashi said in a statement.
One consolation for the Bitcoin community was that this latest Mt. Gox bankruptcy news had no effect on the Bitcoin price, which yesterday (Tuesday) rebounded past the $500 level.
Days after going dark in February, Mt. Gox announced it had lost 750,000 customer bitcoins as well as 100,000 of its own. At the time, the loss was equal to nearly $500 million. Three weeks later, the Bitcoin exchange said it had "found" 200,000 bitcoins in an offline Bitcoin wallet.
That last development had given hope to the 127,000 customers who had bitcoins as well as fiat currency stuck in accounts at Mt. Gox when it went dark. While most of the Bitcoin exchange's customers are resigned to not being made whole, getting even a small portion back would be better than nothing.
But a Mt. Gox liquidation could make any restitution to customers even smaller.
Kobayashi warned customers of the Bitcoin exchange that "it cannot always be assured that the balance that you can confirm will be approved as the bankruptcy claim in its full amount, if the bankruptcy proceedings commence."
Still, Kobayashi's statement did suggest one slim possibility for Mt. Gox customers getting some of their money back...
Anybody Want to Buy a Bankrupt Bitcoin Exchange?
If a buyer could be found for Mt. Gox, and the Bitcoin exchange re-opened, profits from the operating business could be used to pay back the customers who lost money.
Kobayashi indicated such a course of action would be considered.
"The treatment of the exchange business is expected to be decided by taking into consideration the various matters including whether there is any proper buyer candidate who can assume the business and how to transfer the business to such buyer," he said.
But who would buy a disgraced, bankrupt Bitcoin exchange?
Strangely enough, someone already has...
Last week a California-based investor group offered one bitcoin for Mt. Gox. They said their plan would be to revive the exchange and reserve half of the transaction fees to compensate creditors and customers who had lost funds.
The group includes William Quigley, managing director of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Clearstone Venture Partners, Matthew Roszak, a partner at Chicago-based SilkRoad Equity, a venture-capital firm, and Brock Pierce, a former child actor who has founded several Bitcoin-based businesses.
In an appearance on CNBC, Quigley said his group would "fix the security issues and rehabilitate" Mt. Gox, which he believes still has value as a brand.
Of course, the big sticking point here is the offer price. The Japanese bankruptcy court may want more than a single bitcoin for Mt. Gox, but the investment group probably won't be willing to pay any significant amount for the failed Bitcoin exchange.
"I want to put the one bitcoin term in context," Quigley said on CNBC. "That is a symbolic amount. It's akin to what we do in the U.S. when we buy a business that has a negative net worth."
In any case, much more is yet to come in the Mt. Gox saga. It's hard to imagine any revival of Mt. Gox being successful, but stranger things have happened.
As for CEO Karpeles, the court's move to appoint an administrator removes him from any further Mt. Gox decision making. He has not been charged with any crimes, either in Japan or the United States, although that could change as the Japanese court investigation progresses.
Lawyers for Karpeles says he will not travel to the United States either to appear as requested in the Dallas bankruptcy court in which his lawyers filed for Chapter 15 protection, or to respond to a summons from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) to appear in Washington.
A class-action suit against Mt. Gox and Karpeles was filed in Chicago in February.
Some in the mainstream media would have you believe that most of those investing in Bitcoin are naïve and unsophisticated fools who don't recognize a bubble when they see one. But that doesn't explain why some big names in venture capital are pouring millions of dollars into the digital currency, or why Wall Street is growing increasingly interested. Check Out Who's Investing in Bitcoin Now
- The Wall Street Journal:
Mt. Gox Files for Liquidation
Mt. Gox Revamp Rejected, Goes intoAdministration
- Agence France-Presse:
Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox in Administration, Bankruptcy Eyed
About the Author
David Zeiler, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including 18 spent at The Baltimore Sun. He has worked as a writer, editor, and page designer at different times in his career. He's interviewed a number of well-known personalities - ranging from punk rock icon Joey Ramone to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Over the course of his journalistic career, Dave has covered many diverse subjects. Since arriving at Money Morning in 2011, he has focused primarily on technology. He's an expert on both Apple and cryptocurrencies. He started writing about Apple for The Sun in the mid-1990s, and had an Apple blog on The Sun's web site from 2007-2009. Dave's been writing about Bitcoin since 2011 - long before most people had even heard of it. He even mined it for a short time.
Dave has a BA in English and Mass Communications from Loyola University Maryland.