Fortress is forming a Bitcoin fundDecember 31, 2013: 12:14 PM ET
Multi-billion dollar investment manager dives into Bitcoin craze.
FORTUNE -- In September we discussed how SecondMarket had launched the first U.S.-based investment vehicle dedicated exclusively to Bitcoin, called The Bitcoin Investment Trust (beating out the Winklevii, who remain stuck in regulatory limbo). Now comes word that Fortress Investment Group (FIG) is prepping its own Bitcoin fund, which likely will be much larger than the SecondMarket offering.
Details remain scarce, although there are some rumors that info could be revealed tonight at the Bitcoin New Year's Eve Bash down on Broad Street (yes, this is an actual thing). So what we are left with are some breadcrumbs:
Fortress earlier this year acquired Koru Ventures, a provider of patent-backed loans to tech companies, in order to launch an IP finance group. Among Koru's principals (and new Fortress employees) was Steven Waterhouse, the former chief technology officer of RPX Corp. (RPXC) whose LinkedIn profile yesterday said that he had just become a partner on an unnamed Bitcoin fund. After I sent Waterhouse an email requesting more info – and also placing a call with Fortress – the Bitcoin mention disappeared from his LinkedIn page (replaced only with "TBD").
My understanding, however, is that the Fortress effort will be something like an unlisted currency ETF (similar to Bitcoin Investment Trust), with Fortress also perhaps raising a separate vehicle to back Bitcoin-related startups. And there likely is some relationship to a new Bitcoin-related fund raised by Pantera Capital, a San Francisco-based hedge fund whose clients are known to include several Fortress executives.
Pantera founder Dan Morehead declined to discuss his Bitcoin efforts or relationship to Fortress – including if his effort and the Fortress fund were one in the same – but an SEC filing indicates that he already has raised around $150 million for Bitcoin vehicle, and Pantera recently participated in a VC round for crypto-currency payment network Ripple Labs. Moreover, calls to Pantera's main number are now met with a voicemail that only identifies the firm as "Pantera Bitcoin."
Fortress did not return repeated requests for comment.
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