Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles quickly found himself in the crosshairs of the bitcoin community this year following a devastating collapse of the exchange he managed.
With hundreds of millions of dollars of investor funds lost, he’s easily become one of the most-hated public figures to ever get involved with the digital currency, and he’s now speaking up.
In an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal, Karpeles recounted the moments the exchange executed some of its final trades before shutting down completely.
“I was always worried: ‘What if all the bitcoins got stolen?” he told WSJ.
That’s certainly what seems to have happened, or something like it. February’s collapse saw the loss of over 700,000 bitcoins, with the company adding later that they discovered 200,000 bitcoins in a wallet that was presumed to have been old and empty. But it hasn’t helped the scores of investors left without a dime. And he doesn’t think any more will be recovered.
“As the company head, my mission was to protect customers and employees,” he said. “I’m deeply sorry. I’m frustrated with myself.”
The interview is his first run-in with the press since announcing Mt. Gox’s bankruptcy before a crowd of reporters in late February. It was conducted from the 33rd floor of his apartment in an upscale Tokyo neighborhood.
In effort to repay liquidators, Karpeles is trying to sell off domain names, such as bitcoins.com and akb.com.
It doesn’t seem like he’s through with business entirely, but he does recall some critical mistakes he made as head honcho of the world’s oldest and once largest bitcoin exchange.
“The weakest point of my company was management,” he said. “I failed to lay out appropriate corporate structures.”
Instead of focusing on the technological development of Mt. Gox (which grew exponentially following the sale from creator Jed McCaleb to Karpeles), Mark was tied up in meetings with lawyers and bankers.
And while he would like to see Mt. Gox rise from the ashes, he expressed concern with one group’s plan to revive the exchange. That group is Sunlot Holdings, and they’ve been a hot topic lately.
“To begin with, remaining customer money should not be touched,” he said.
Sunlot holdings is backed by former child-actor Brock Pierce, who now sits on the Bitcoin Foundation board.
And if anyone is looking to start their own bitcoin exchange, Karpeles has some simple advice:
“If anyone wants to start a bitcoin exchange, I would say, ‘Be sure to have 24-hour security guards.'”