86% of Stablecoin Issuer Tether Was Controlled by 4 People as of 2018: WSJ

Documents reveal the previously unknown ownership structure of the secretive stablecoin issuer.

AccessTimeIconFeb 2, 2023 at 7:49 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:07 a.m. UTC

Four men owned 86% of Tether as of 2018, according to investigatory documents viewed by the Wall Street Journal.

The documents from 2021 probes of Tether by the New York Attorney General and the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission reveal the previously unknown ownership structure of the secretive issuer of the world’s largest stablecoin. Tether’s USDT stablecoin is a key piece of infrastructure in the crypto world, easing the movement of money in the industry. Yet, the people behind it have not always been forthcoming about how they operate.

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  • Tether began from separate companies led by ex-plastic surgeon Giancarlo Devasini and former child actor Brock Pierce. Devasini, who helped develop crypto exchange Bitfinex and is now its chief financial officer, owned about 43% of Tether in 2018, according to the documents seen by the Journal.

    Two other executives of both Bitfinex and Tether, CEO Jean-Louis van Der Velde and Chief Counsel Stuart Hoegner, each owned roughly 15% of Tether in 2018, the documents revealed.

    The fourth major owner as of 2018 was a businessman with British and Thai citizenship known as Christopher Harborne in the U.K. and Chakrit Sakunkrit in Thailand. He controlled about 13% of Tether.

    Together, the four men owned approximately 86% of Tether through their own holdings and another related company.

    Tether declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal about its ownership structure, and a Tether spokesperson did not immediately respond to a CoinDesk request for comment on the story.

    In a tweet following the publication of the WSJ's article, Paolo Aordino, the chief technology officer of Bitfinex and Tether, called the piece "a clown article," adding, "People understand that Tether is standing for freedom and inclusion."

    UPDATE (Feb. 2, 19:56 UTC): Updated with tweet from Aordino.


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    Nelson Wang

    Nelson Wang was CoinDesk's news editor for the East Coast. He holds BTC and ETH above CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1,000.