Bitstamp owner hits back at founder in attempt to fully take over exchange

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A 9.8% stake in Bitstamp digital currency exchange is at the center of a legal battle between the majority owner and the former CEO. A South Korean billionaire who acquired the exchange three years ago has hit back at the former CEO in court, denying that they had any agreement barring him from pursuing the remaining 9.8% stake at a discount.

In October 2018, Bitstamp Holdings NV—an investment vehicle owned by $3 billion investment firm NXMH—acquired a majority stake in Bitstamp. The exchange’s founder Nejc Kodrič, who was then serving as the CEO, held onto a 9.8% stake. Two years later, he was ousted from his position and last month, he brought a lawsuit against the new owners.

As CoinGeek reported, Kodrič claimed that the new owner was trying to force him to sell his stake at a price that’s “very significantly lower than the present value of the shares.” The lawsuit, which he filed at the High Court of Justice in London, claimed that NXMH was forcing him to sell the stake for $13.46 million.

Now, NXMH has fired back at the former CEO. In its filing, the company claims that it signed a contract with Kodrič at the time of acquisition to acquire his shares at a discount based on a call option they negotiated at the time.

In a filing, Kodrič had claimed that he was given assurances by Hendrick Ghys, who NXMH appointed to the Bitstamp board upon acquiring the exchange, that the options would not be exercised while the exchange pushed for an IPO at a $1 billion valuation. This was the first time the world got to know that the exchange was making plans to list publicly, with the current CEO having dismissed an IPO as a ‘dangerous distraction’ in June.

NXMH has dismissed these claims in its response. This didn’t give Kodrič any such assurances, nor was he authorized to, it told the court.

The company, which is owned by South Korean gaming billionaire Jung-ju Kim, has further dismissed claims that it told the former CEO that he was critical to any IPO push. 

“It is denied that NXMH and Holdings regarded Mr. Kodrič’s involvement as a shareholder or director to be critical or necessary. The value of Mr. Kodrič’s involvement in any capacity was dependent on whether he remained focused and committed to Bitstamp,” it stated in its response. 

NXMH is seeking to force Kodrič to sell the shares or claim damages equal to their value.

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