Mircea Popescu, a controversial figure in the world of crypto, boasted one of the single-biggest bitcoin
fortunes and his amassed wealth in digital assets may be lost to the ether after his untimely death last month, some speculate.
Here’s what has been reported thus far.
Popescu reportedly died off the coast of Costa Rica. Local news reports say he was “swept away by the current and died on the spot,” during a morning swim in Playa Hermosa de Garabito, Puntarenas.
The New York Post reported, citing comments from Twitter, that the Romanian crypto entrepreneur’s death was confirmed by three women who knew him.
Popescu was viewed as a pioneer in digital assets and one of the earliest adopters. An article in Bitcoin Magazine written by Pete Rizzo said that Popescu was known for starting MPEx, a bitcoin securities exchange, around the same time as Coinbase Global COIN, 0.18% launched.
The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated MPex in 2014, and Popescu famously released a series of brash emails, where he defiantly questioned the authority of the regulator at the time.
Some estimates peg Popescu’s bitcoin holdings at 30,000 and he has made unverified claims that he held much more. At its mid-April peak this year, Popescu’s bitcoin holdings would have been worth nearly $2 billion but if estimates are accurate about his holdings they are worth about $1 billion today.
What is unclear is how Popescu stored his crypto? Is it in a cold wallet, unconnected by computers, that only he holds the private key to, or is his cache of bitcoin held with a third-party.
Some speculate that he had a private key and that no one has access to it, which would mean that his fortune, whatever its size, is lost on the blockchain forever.
“Access to Mircea Popescu’s reported $2 billion in Bitcoin would only be accessible through his private keys, whether he stored them digitally or in cold storage like a physical Bitcoin wallet,” Voyager Digital CEO Steve Ehrlich told MarketWatch via email.
“It’s unclear if anyone besides Popescu has access to those wallets,” he said. “If there isn’t anyone who has the private keys to his Bitcoin storage, those coins could essentially be ‘lost’ forever in the sense that they will just sit in his wallets without the ability to be liquidated.”
This may be a frustrating outcome for Popescu and those close to him but at least one person appeared to be trying to be optimistic about a tragic story.
Anthony Pompliano, co-founder and partner at Morgan Creek Digital Assets, in a since-deleted tweet said that the lost coins ultimately make the current supply of bitcoin more valuable since there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins in existence.
At last check, bitcoin prices were changing hands at around $33,221, up 1% CoinDesk, and Ether
on Ethereum’s blockchain was trading at $2,094, up marginally.