Nothing fires the imagination like an anonymous hero with a secret identity. It’s been an enduring trope since the Scarlet Pimpernel rescued his first aristocrat from Madame la Guillotine. From Batman to the street artist Banksy, each hero has his own reason for donning the mask of anonymity. This phenomenon has come to the world of finance in the person of Satoshi Nakamoto, the so-called father of Bitcoin. He appeared out of the ether in 2008 and disappeared just as abruptly three years later, after establishing the world’s first cryptocurrency. On April 23, 2011, he sent a farewell email to a fellow Bitcoin developer. “I’ve moved on to other things,” he wrote, assuring that the future of Bitcoin was “in good hands.” He has not been heard from since.
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Today, Bitcoin is valued at nearly $325 billion, and while Nakamoto’s identity might be simply a matter of speculation for some, it means far more to others: He is said to own over 1 million bitcoins or around 5 percent of the total number in circulation. The price of Bitcoin has fallen dramatically in 2022—it’s plummeted by over 66 percent since January 1—but even so, that would put the value of Nakamoto’s Bitcoin holdings at over $16.2 billion. At the cryptocurrency peak, in November of last year, the mysterious figure’s bitcoins would have been worth more than $67 billion. Should the person—or persons—behind the name Satoshi Nakamoto decide to sell just some of this hoard, the transaction would completely upend the cryptocurrency market. Cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase, which went public on the Nasdaq in April 2021, noted the potential revelation of Nakamoto’s identity (and the movement of that person’s Bitcoin holdings) as a risk factor in its IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Coinbase even went so far as to send a copy of the filing to the last known email address for Nakamoto.