Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox went dark on Tuesday without much explanation beyond an unconfirmed and purportedly leaked document (embedded below) that alleged thieves had stolen 744,408 bitcoins worth $380 million from the world's largest exchange and that it could "go bankrupt at any moment."
That document, titled "Crisis Strategy Draft," now appears to be genuine, according to none other than Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles himself. Karpeles apparently confirmed that it is "more or less" legitimate earlier this week in an Internet Relay Chat with a self-described adviser to bitcoin investors.
Shrouded In Ambiguity
Like so much news about Mt. Gox, a notoriously tight-lipped, Tokyo-based company, this confirmation is shrouded in ambiguity. Karpeles' online chat allegedly took place two days ago, at 10:39am ET on Tuesday, with Jon Fisher, an affiliate marketer in New York who told ReadWrite that he now advises "some of the largest private holders of bitcoin."
Fisher posted the text of the chat on his website, WickedFire.com, on Tuesday roughly eight hours after it took place. Fox Business News reported the text of the chat on Tuesday. Fisher told me by email that the chat is genuine. There doesn't appear to be any obvious way to contact Mt. Gox for comment.
In addition to laying out Mt. Gox's woes, the crisis document outlined a four-point recovery plan for the exchange that included asking partners, investors and donors for bailout funds to continue operations; ousting Karpeles as CEO; and taking the exchange offline for a month in order to restructure both its underlying technology and its business.
In the course of the chat, Fisher asked Karpeles if the crisis-management document is "even legit." The CEO, writing under the pseudonym "MagicalTux," replied:
[11:04] <MagicalTux> more or less
[11:05] <MagicalTux> as the name suggests it's a draft, and it's a bunch of proposals to deal with the issue at hand, not things that are actually planned and/or done
[11:06] <MagicalTux> this said this document was not produced by MtGox
Bitcoin blogger and entrepreneur Ryan Selkis, who first published the crisis-management document on his blog, now reports that it originated with a global consulting firm called Mandalah. Selkis also reports that Mt. Gox's initial attempts to solicit bailout funds from outside investors have gone nowhere.
A Casual Tone
During the Tuesday discussion, which took on an especially casual tone for a man facing the wrath of millions of angry customers, Karpeles said he’s still in Japan trying to make things right. “We haven’t given up,” he wrote.
Karpeles declined to say whether he plans to step down as CEO. But he said he's unable to access his own money, and presumably that of Mt. Gox customers, although he added this caveat: “technically speaking it's not ‘lost’ just yet, just temporarily unavailable.”
Members of the Bitcoin community were less than pleased with Karpeles’ lackadaisical tone. During the conversation he complained of gaining serious weight due to stress, referenced Batman, and—in an odd attempt to verify his identity—posted a picture of his cat asleep beside his keyboard.
“First public communication after shutting down site containing millions of dollars belonging to thousands of people who have been kept completely in the dark with no information about the status of their money. Posts a picture of his cat, links to a batman meme, and complains about getting fat. This f*cking guy,” redditor thesacred wrote.
Here's the Crisis Strategy Draft:
Photo courtesy of Mt. Gox