Mark Karpelès, the CEO who presided over Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox until it went bankrupt in 2014, has had a hard time finding work for the last four years. After all, when he announced in February 2014 that he’d lost all of Mt. Gox’s 850,000 Bitcoins, he instantly became the biggest villain of the cryptocurrency world.
And while Karpelès ended up finding 200,000 of the Mt. Gox Bitcoins—and authorities believe the other 650,000 were stolen by outside hackers—he’s currently on criminal trial in Japan for charges of embezzlement, manipulation of electronic data, and breach of trust. Initially arrested in 2015, Karpelès was held in jail for almost a year on those charges.
“I have no way to be sure that I’ll still be able to work in one year, two years,” Karpelès told Fortune in an interview in Tokyo in March. “So I cannot really get a normal full-time job.” In other words, he acknowledges, he may be sent back to jail. (For the full tale of how the Mt. Gox hack mystery has unfolded, see my feature story “Mt. Gox and the Surprising Redemption of Bitcoin’s Biggest Villain” from the May issue of Fortune.)
But whether it’s what he considers “normal” or not, Karpelès recently did land a new job—and a major one, as a C-level executive at a U.S. corporation. He’s the new chief technology officer of London Trust Media, a Denver-based company that boasts the world’s largest paid virtual private network (VPN) service.
London Trust Media is also increasingly investing in cryptocurrency: It was an early investor in Zcash, a privacy-focused digital coin, and has also backed Purse, a startup allowing people to buy Amazon items with Bitcoin.
Karpelès, however, was not forthcoming about his latest career move in our initial meeting. Instead, he’d said he was juggling four to five different IT consulting jobs, working on projects related to online video games, network communications and IP (Internet protocol) services—all “unrelated to cryptocurrency.” He refused to name his employers at the time, saying that as a contractor, he was prohibited from discussing them.
It wasn’t until afterwards, whenI stumbled across his LinkedIn profile, that Karpelès finally opened up about his new position. On LinkedIn, he lists himself as London Trust Media’s CTO since January of this year. “I’d say it’s currently my main job,” Karpelès wrote in a message to Fortune.
On the other hand, Karpelès’s new employer was more than happy to trumpet the news of his new hire. “Mark fought and fell. And although he fell, his skills, experience and know-how unarguably continue to exist,” says Andrew Lee, cofounder, chairman and chief of lab division at London Trust Media. “And so, bringing in a seasoned warrior makes perfect sense to me. I am more than willing to give a second chance to Mark in this fight’s critical hour.”
The fight Lee is referring to is what he calls the “crypto wars”—cryptocurrency’s battle against increasing government regulation and oversight, including moves by the New York attorney general this week.
Lee, who also once sold a company to Mt. Gox and was in charge of Mt. Gox’s North American operations for a short time, says Karpelès will be working on London Trust Media’s cryptocurrency ventures as well as its other products. Karpelès’s experience in the Bitcoin industry—despite ending in disaster—will prove valuable, Lee adds: “I wouldn’t dare say that the person who architected the Titanic should never again architect another ship.”
Karpelès, who has never been to the U.S., will work remotely from Japan, where he is currently required to stay while he is on trial. He says he was attracted mostly to London Trust Media’s commitment to protecting its customers’ privacy through its VPN services, citing recent outrage over Facebook’s sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica. “Advertising-driven overreach on people’s privacy has been a matter I’ve been worried about for some time,” he says.
After all, Karpelès has lately been less than enthusiastic about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, telling Fortune he’s had “enough of cryptocurrency” between all his problems at Mt. Gox, and has essentially washed his hands clean of it. “The main issue with Bitcoin itself is that the community around it right now is kind of too polarized,” Karpelès says, citing the split between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash over a disagreement in how best to scale the digital currency. (He’s not taking a side, in order to “stay neutral and not get involved in more trouble than I am already.”)
“Bitcoin right now is, I believe, doomed,” Karpelès adds. “Its original promise of being the future of currency is clearly out of reach.” Then again, that’s what some said about Karpelès’ career.