Jesse Powell, co-founder of crypto exchange Kraken, is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer. Kraken said on Wednesday that Dave Ripley, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, will replace Powell as the new CEO.
According to Kraken, the transition is set to occur within the next few months after the firm finds a replacement for Ripley. Powell will remain at the company as chairman of Kraken’s board. The company revealed that Powell intends to spend more of his time focusing on the company’s products, user experience, and wider industry advocacy.
The outspoken Powell, an early Bitcoin advocate who founded Kraken in 2011, has denied that several company-related controversies prompted his decision to step down as CEO. He told Bloomberg media that he informed Kraken’s board of his upcoming departure over a year ago. “As the company has gotten bigger, it’s just gotten to be more draining on me, less fun,” Powell told Bloomberg.
Kraken stated that Ripley, who joined the exchange after it acquired his startup in 2016, was selected following a thorough internal and external search over the past year.
Powell has been at the center of several controversies facing the firm this year. In March, Kraken was one of a few crypto exchanges that avoided an outright ban of Russian accounts unless ordered by the State Department to do so. Powell said the exchange was within the legal sanctions requirements, but indiscriminate bans were unfair to average Russians, who might not support the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
In June, Powell posted inflammatory messages about race and gender on the company’s Slack. During that time, he questioned employees’ use of preferred pronouns and engaged in a lengthy discussion about whether men are inherently more intelligent than women. Some employees raised complaints, and Powell released a company culture document outlining what he described as Kraken’s libertarian values. He told workers that if they disagreed with the document, they should quit, and some did.
In response to a report by The Times media on Kraken’s internal conflict, Powell tweeted in July that he was returning the company “back to dictatorship.”
In July, Kraken came under spotlight when the Treasury Department launched investigations against the company for breaking U.S. sanctions. Kraken was suspected of violating U.S. sanctions by allowing users in Iran, Syria, and Cuba to trade crypto assets on its platform, disregarding government bans on engaging in business with the three countries.
Kraken was founded in 2011 by Powell and Thanh Luu as one of the first major exchanges for investors to buy and sell digital assets in the US.
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