Bitcoin advocate Michael Saylor stepping down as CEO of company after crypto crash loses it $1 billion

Ice Sculptor Csaba Vass puts the finishing touches to a large Bitcoin ice carving in front of Tower Bridge in London, to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the world’s leading crypto exchange, Huobi Global. Picture date: Wednesday November 24, 2021. (PA Archive)

Michael Saylor, the bitcoin advocate and chief executive of Microstrategy, is stepping down as head of the company after his bets on crypto lost it $1 billion.

Mr Saylor has led business intelligence company Microstrategy for the last 30 years, since founding it in 1989.

But he became more famous when he publicly supported bitcoin, and began adding the cryptocurrency to the company’s balance sheet. As a result, the company became less a business intelligence firm and more a speculation vehicle for the value of the cryptocurrency.

That meant that when the price of the currency crashed in weeks, the company was hit by huge losses. Its latest earnings showed a loss of $1.062 billion – almost entirely down to a $917 million hit it had to take on those crypto investments.

Now Mr Saylor will be leaving his role as chief executive, with that job being split from the role of chairman, and with Mr Saylor being named “executive chairman”. Neither he or the company directly linked his departure to the bitcoin purchases, however – and Mr Saylor suggested they would continue.

“I believe that splitting the roles of Chairman and CEO will enable us to better pursue our two corporate strategies of acquiring and holding bitcoin and growing our enterprise analytics software business. As Executive Chairman I will be able to focus more on our bitcoin acquisition strategy and related bitcoin advocacy initiatives, while Phong [Le] will be empowered as CEO to manage overall corporate operations,” he said in a statement.

In a tweet, Mr Saylor indicated that he would be pursuing a new job that allowed him to focus more precisely on cryptocurrency. “In my next job, I intend to focus more on Bitcoin,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Saylor’s Twitter account had previously been a way for him to communicate purchases that Microstrategy had made of new bitcoin. The latest of those posts came at the end of June, when Mr Saylor announced the company had spent another $10 million on the cryptocurrency.

Since then, as the market has crashed, Mr Saylor’s primary focus on Twitter has been boosting the cryptocurrency. He regularly posts about the transformative power of bitcoin, even as the price has been dramatically falling.

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