Sep 30, 2022 - Economy

Crypto C-suite heads roll amid winter doldrums

Illustration of a nameplate that reads "buh bye"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The crypto C-suite and senior leadership have seen a rash of departures recently, with some stepping down amid scandal and others merely moving on.

The big picture: CEO turnover in the U.S. jumped 8% in August from the previous month, led by departures in the technology and fintech sectors, according to recent research from Challenger Gray & Christmas. Peak turnover tends to hit during economic highs and lows, senior vice president Andrew Challenger tells Axios.

Driving the news: Executives at Celsius Network, FTX.US, Genesis Global Trading, Kraken and MicroStrategy — some of whom are considered crypto industry OGs — announced their resignations in the last few weeks.

Flashback: "If you're unhappy and you know it, quit," was the message from major bosses to disgruntled employees during second-quarter layoffs.

  • A few of those bosses appear to be taking that message to heart.

The intrigue: While the crypto industry grapples with what appears like an accelerating pace of quitting at companies' highest echelons, CEO turnover overall in the U.S. is roughly flat compared to last year.

  • Some 895 chiefs leaving their positions at the helm, compared to the 888 that had resigned by this time last year, according to Challenger's data.

Between the lines: In addition to the general economic catalyst, other factors for the executive shuffling in crypto could be at play.

  • Startup founders tend to get pushed out in favor of seasoned executives as industry competition forces entire swaths of firms to seek out specific talent — e-commerce savvy for retail, for example.
  • Or when people just mess up.

What they're saying: "Whether mistakes were made or not," Challenger says," Crypto firms are making changes at the very top."

Details: Here is a list of executive departures announced since August:

Alex Mashinsky, Celsius Network (2017-Sept. 27 2022)

  • Mashinsky resigned earlier this week amid Celsius Network's bankruptcy proceedings. His exit followed a series of leaked town hall meetings, during which the Celsius chief was discussing new business plans.

Brett Harrison, FTX.US (May 2021-Sept. 27, 2022)

  • Harrison said he is taking an advisory role at the firm; Zach Dexter, former chief of the U.S.-regulated crypto derivatives platform LedgerX, is expected to succeed him. Recall FTX bought LedgerX just last year.

Jesse Powell, Kraken (2011-Sept. 21, 2022)

  • Powell is staying on as chairman and will be succeeded by COO David Ripley. The OG crypto chief stepped down as chief after the crypto exchange nabbed headlines for its workplace culture.
  • What they're saying: Powell said he didn't like the gig.

Sam Trabucco, Alameda Research (2021-Aug. 24, 2022)

  • Trabucco was named co-CEO last year after spending two years as a trader at the firm. He tweeted about his departure in a thread called "On happiness."

Michael Moro, Genesis Global (2016-Aug. 17, 2022)

  • Moro stepped down as chief from the Digital Currency Group trading arm as the firm cut 20% of its headcount. The shakeup came after it was revealed that the unit had loaned $2.4 billion to Three Arrows Capital.
  • Of note: Four senior executives also announced their respective departures.

Michael Saylor, MicroStrategy (1989-Aug. 8, 2022)

  • Saylor is staying on as chairman, but stepped down as CEO after leading the software company he founded to invest more than $4 billion in bitcoin.
  • Of note: Shortly after, D.C's attorney general sued Saylor for tax evasion, which the CEO denied in an emailed statement to Axios.
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