Mike Tyson, former boxer and noted pigeon fan, is getting into Bitcoin. According to a promo website Tyson advertised in a tweet over the weekend, Tyson-themed Bitcoin ATMs will be coming to Las Vegas in August.
Tyson isn't the first celebrity to get behind Bitcoin, but ATMs emblazoned with Tyson's familiar toothy grin could very well be the first example of a good old fashioned celebrity #branded partnership for virtual currencies.
"I think Tyson will be the dominant brand in the ATM space," Peter Klamka, CEO of Bitcoin Direct LLC, the company providing the machines, told me in a phone call. "The Tom Brady ATM will be compared to the Tyson ATM. The LeBron James ATM will be compared to the Tyson ATM."
Before you let the thought of streets lined with celebrity-branded Bitcoin ATMs sink in, though, consider this: Bitcoin Direct doesn't even have a website. This point, as well as Bitcoin Direct's convoluted corporate history, has some Bitcoin news outlets wondering if the whole endeavour's actually a scam that Tyson is unwittingly being led into.
"At some point, you have to decide: are you going to spend $100,000 a year doing SEC filings, or are you going to spend that money buying bitcoins?"
Klamka has a long history of wrangling celebrity endorsements, starting with his days as a web entrepreneur in the 90s. In 2000, he was quoted in a New York Times article on dot com millionaires about all the calls he received from regretful exes and plebes (AKA old friends) after he made his money. Over the years, Klamka has owned a constellation of loosely associated companies with names that keep changing.
Klamka's first company, PTN Media, released Claudia Schiffer and Michael Jordan-branded Palm handhelds in the late 90s and changed its name to Legend Mobile in the 2000s, which later became Cephas Holdings Inc.
Cephas was a publicly traded company—a penny stock with a low market cap that was once suspected of being part of a "pump and dump" scheme—until the US Securities and Exchange Commission temporarily suspended trading Cephas stocks in March of 2015. The reason was that, as of 2015, the last financial information Cephas published was from 2013. Cephas then went private, and Bitcoin Direct LLC was registered in Nevada in April, a month after trading on Cephas stocks were suspended.
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"At some point, you have to decide: are you going to spend $100,000 a year doing SEC filings, or are you going to spend that money buying bitcoins?" Klamka said when I asked about the suspension. "We, as a company, had to decide whether we were in the stock business or the Bitcoin business."
Before the SEC drama, Klamka started another Bitcoin company called Bitcoin Brands Inc., which traded under Cephas' ticker until it was suspended.
Despite a corporate history like a Russian nesting doll, Bitcoin Direct and Bitcoin Brands both have legitimate business. Bitcoin Direct set up a Bitcoin ATM at a mixed martial arts gym called One Kick Nick's in Las Vegas last year, and you can purchase shirts from UFC fighter Ian "Uncle Creepy" McCall's website with Bitcoin, courtesy of Bitcoin Brands.
That you can buy shirts that say things like "keep calm and creep on" with Bitcoin is pretty incredible, but even so, Tyson's entry into the cryptocurrency game somehow tops it for all-out weirdness.