HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Bitmain Technologies Ltd’s billionaire founder Wu Jihan announced on Tuesday (Oct 29) the resignation of his co-founder, a surprise ouster that appeared to resolve a struggle for control of the world’s largest crypto mining start-up.
Micree Zhan Ketuan, who started Bitmain with Mr Wu six years ago, no longer holds any position at the Beijing-based company effective immediately, Mr Wu said in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.
The crypto-entrepreneur warned employees against taking further instructions from Mr Zhan or attending any meetings he convenes, threatening staff with dismissal or criminal charges. Company spokesman Nishant Sharma declined to comment on the memo.
“If employees cause any harm to the company’s economic interests, the company will investigate their civil or criminal liability in accordance with the law,” Mr Wu wrote in the memo, signing off as Bitmain’s co-founder and chairman. Mr Zhan didn’t immediately reply to an e-mailed query and calls to his personal phone went unanswered.
Bitmain’s two co-founders had long served as co-CEOs but were replaced this year by Mr Wang Haichao, at a time the company was grappling with layoffs and a cash crunch triggered by Bitcoin’s price plunge.
Tuesday’s surprise memo is sure to stoke more questions around the world’s largest producer of crypto mining rigs, which Bloomberg News reported had previously failed to pursue a Hong Kong listing of as much as US$3 billion (S$4.1 billion).
Bitmain, which was valued at about US$15 billion in a private funding round last year, continues to grapple with an uncertain home regulatory environment even as its fortunes wax and wane along with the price of bitcoin.
It’s also said to have considered a US debut, long before rival Canaan Inc filed for its own American US initial public offering.
Mr Wu and Mr Zhan hold 21 per cent and 37 per cent of the company, respectively, according to Bitmain’s IPO prospectus for Hong Kong. Mr Wu was Bitmain’s business head, an avid supporter of digital tokens like Bitcoin Cash.
Mr Zhan, on the other hand, led the company’s chip designing team and its foray into artificial intelligence chip-making. This year, Mr Wu founded a crypto financial services start-up called Matrixport. He recently took over Mr Zhan as the legal representative of Bitmain’s Beijing entity, according to public company registration information.