Tezos Finally Plans to Launch ICO Coin After Ousting Swiss Foundation Head
More than seven months after the Tezos ICO raised $232 million last July—making it the largest such initial coin offering at the time—the blockchain startup, whose progress had been delayed by infighting, is finally set to launch the Tezos coins.
The president of the Tezos Foundation, set up to oversee the launch and development of the blockchain project, stepped down from his post Thursday following a long dispute with Tezos co-founders, Ivy League-educated Kathleen Breitman and her husband Arthur Breitman. The Breitmans had called for the resignation of the Swiss foundation trustee, Johann Gevers, last fall, after accusing him of attempting to embezzle money and “[acting] as a roadblock to the mission.”
Gevers, for his part, has accused the Breitmans of acting against the best interests of Tezos.
The shakeup clears the way for Tezos to release the digital Tezos tokens, known as “tezzies,” which will facilitate a blockchain network for so-called “smart contracts” that aims to rival Ethereum, whose cryptocurrency is currently the second most valuable after Bitcoin. The Tezos price—for pre-launch tokens—surged more than 10% Thursday after the announcement.
“TEZOS ACHIEVES IMPORTANT MILESTONE,” Gevers wrote on Twitter as he shared the news of the reorganization Thursday. “After months of very hard work under extremely difficult conditions, I’m very happy that we’ve achieved a good resolution that optimally serves the interests of the Tezos project and the wider crypto ecosystem.”
Tezos had told Fortune last fall that it was targeting a February release date for the Tezos coins, a deadline that now seems within reach. Speaking at a UCLA event Feb. 18, Tezos CEO Kathleen Breitman said the company was planning on “going rogue” and releasing the tezzies “in the next few weeks.”
“For a while I felt like I was being gaslit,” Breitman said at the UCLA Cyber Days event. “But then I just kind of unburdened myself from the morality of it; I was like, well you know, we’re going to have to launch, we’re going to have to find a way; it’s clearly not going to be with this jackass.”
The Tezos Foundation, however, said in a statement that Gevers had stepped down voluntarily to “optimally support” the mission and was “committed to the success” of the project.
Ryan Jesperson, a Utah resident and former fintech startup executive, will replace Gevers as president of the Tezos Foundation, relocating to Zug, Switzerland for the job. Jesperson, who invested in the Tezos ICO, had previously started an international petition to oust Gevers and, earlier this month, set up a rival Swiss association, the T2 Foundation, to pursue the launch of the Tezos network. Members of the T2 Foundation’s council included prominent Tezos investor Olaf Carlson-Wee, manager of the crypto-focused hedge fund Polychain.
Jesperson and Michel Mauny, who had both served on the board of the new T2 Foundation, will now join the board of the Tezos Foundation, replacing Gevers as well as Diego Olivier Fernandez Pons. “With the appointment of the two new members to the Board, the Foundation is preparing itself to assist in the timely launch of the Tezos network,” the Tezos Foundation said in a statement.
Tezos CEO Kathleen Breitman added in an email to Fortune, “We welcome the new Board members at the Tezos Foundation, and we and Dynamic Ledger Solutions remain fully dedicated to the Tezos project.”
The resolution of the dispute with Gevers also takes some pressure off Tezos, which had in the meantime become embroiled in other legal problems as a result of the delays and ongoing battle. Tezos has been deflecting rumors of an investigation into the company by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and also has been hit with class action lawsuits alleging securities fraud as a result of the delays.
Now, investors are watching with high anticipation to see if Tezos and the new leaders of its governing body can deliver on their promises.