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Bitmain Upheaval: Jihan Wu Regains Control of the Company by Ousting Cofounder Micree Zhan

The China-based crypto mining giant Bitmain is currently immersed in a highly charged atmosphere as Jihan Wu sent out an email to all staff announcing that cofounder and executive director Micree Ketuan Zhan has been ousted.

The takeover of power – the comeback of “Bitmain’s Jobs”?

Jihan Wu, the more high-profile co-founder of Bitmain and now chairman of the board, sent an internal email with a subject of “Important Notice” to all staff at noon on Tuesday, October 29, saying

“Bitmain’s co-founder, chairman, legal representative and executive director Jihan Wu has decided to dismiss all operating positions of Ketuan Zhan with immediate take-effect.

Any Bitmain staff shall no longer execute any direction from Zhan, or participate in any meeting organized by him. Bitmain may, based on the situation, consider terminating employment contracts of those who violate this note. If violators damage Bitmain’s economic interests, the company will pursue civil or criminal liability according to law.”

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According to the company information registered with local authority, Bitmain has changed its corporate structure on October 28, the day before the news broke out. After the change, Jihan Wu has taken over the roles of executive director and legal representative of Bitmain from Micree Zhan. They are crucial roles as an executive director directly reports to the board and is responsible for carrying out the board’s decisions and the legal representative is held legally accountable for all the company’s operations.

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Following the news, Haipo Yang, founder and CEO of crypto mining pool ViaBTC and crypto exchange CoinEx, immediately posted a weibo (Chinese Tweet equivalent) congratulating Jihan Wu, saying

“Wu is one of the earliest blockchain preachers in China, pioneer translators of the English-version white paper of Bitcoin and the founder of Bitmain. It is under his leadership that Bitmain grows into a big-name company. Yet for some historical reasons, as it has happened many times in history, he was almost driven out of the company that he founded, and Bitmain dropped since then. At the intense of the crisis, he took iron-fist measures to regain control of the company. I hope he, like Jobs, could lead the company back to its glories. Bitmain is the second largest shareholder in ViaBTC&CoinEx and one of my strongest allies.”

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According to previous reports, Micree Zhan, Bitmain’s low-profile co-founder and biggest shareholder with a 36.5% stake in the company, is in charge of technology research and development; and Jihan Wu (with 20.25% stake) focuses more on marketing. While as the company grows bigger, the duo is divided on its future development. Zhan wants to develop AI technology and transform the company into a chipmaker, while Wu focuses more ambition on the crypto/blockchain industry and hopes the company can continue to develop more mining machines and go long on BCH.

Dismiss Zhan’s followers – BitmainLayoff 2.0?

Immediately after the email about Zhan’s dismissal, Wu sent out a second email to all staff announcing removing the current HR head and reappointing the former HR manager.

According to people close to the company, the fired HR head was appointed by Zhan in late 2018, and the person reappointed is a veteran employee who had accompanied Wu since the establishment of the company.

The personnel adjustments show that Wu is winning back control of Bitmain after a yearlong leave. Almost the same time last year, the company also experienced a board reshuffle – four out of six directors quitted the board, with Zhan remaining to be Bitmain’s executive director and legal representative, while Jihan only served as a supervisor – a role who has no right to participate in company’s business operations.

Though the company clarified that the personnel upheaval was only to simplify company structure in preparation for the company’s Hong Kong IPO at that time, Jihan was believed to have left Bitmain and started his own spinoff Matrixport which offers digital asset financial services.

It remains unknown how Jihan persuaded the board members to reinstall him at the helm. However, the company’s official response to a local media seems to hint at their unsatisfaction with the company’s performance under Zhan’s leadership, saying that

“…We believe under the leadership of Jihan, Bitmain will be back to its original mission, focusing on our main business and expanding our business orderly, and will become a world-class tech company.”

It is unclear whether Zhan will fight back, or whether it is a part of the company’s strategy for its U.S. IPO, but the whole company is currently immersed in a highly charged atmosphere, especially those managers and employees picked or promoted by Micree Zhan. Some guess it may lead to a Bitmain Layoff 2.0, a massive layoff like the case last year.

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