Turmoil struck the top-most ranks of Chinese mining rig manufacturer Bitmain with the ousting of co-founder Micree Zhan Ketuan by Wu Jihan, co-founder and chairman of the board.

Why it matters: Wu’s comeback was a surprise for many as he had launched a different startup in July and appeared to have stepped back from his role after a falling out with Zhan over artificial intelligence (AI) chip operations.

“Bitmain employees shall no longer take any orders from Zhan or attend any meetings he holds. For those who violate this, Bitmain will, based on the severity of the situation, consider terminating employment contracts” (our translation).

—Wu Jihan in an email to all Bitmain staff on Tuesday 

Details: The past year has been turbulent for the Beijing-based crypto mining rig giant. It failed to list in Hong Kong and reshuffled leadership in March after massive layoffs and overseas branch closures in December and January.

  • In the email with the subject “important notice” addressed to all staff, Wu wrote: “As the co-founder, chairman, legal representative, and executive director of Bitmain, Wu Jihan has decided to dismiss Zhan Ketuan from all his roles in the company, effective immediately.”
  • According to an employee cited by blockchain-focused news outlet Coindesk, the company is currently having “an urgent all-hands meeting as staffers were shocked by the sudden notice.”
  • The market is showing support for the company’s decision. The price of bitcoin cash (BTC) rallied nearly 10% in the past 24 hours.
  • According to local news reports (in Chinese), the company secretly filed an IPO prospectus to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a week before the Zhan’s dismissal.

Briefing: Mining giant Bitmain shifts IPO plans to the US

Context: In December, the company shuttered some overseas operations and reportedly cut half of its workforce. The company had filed an application to float shares in Hong Kong three months prior, which expired in March. The company’s failed attempt to list in Hong Kong resulted in both co-founders stepping down as co-CEOs.

  • According to its Hong Kong initial public offering application, Zhan owned 36% of Bitmain while Wu owned 20%.
  • In June, the company decided to revive its plans for an IPO on rebounding optimism around Bitcoin, reportedly seeking to raise about up to $500 million from the offering.

Nicole Jao is a reporter based in Beijing. She’s passionate about emerging trends, news, and stories of human interest within the world of technology. Connect with her on Twitter or via email: nicole.jao.iting@gmail.com.

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