The mother of Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles says her son is a poor communicator who easily allows others to take advantage of him, but she insists he is not dishonest.
Tokyo-based Mt. Gox had been the largest and oldest bitcoin exchange in the world until it collapsed and declared itself bankrupt in late February, having lost vast amounts of its customers' bitcoins – allegedly to hackers.
In an interview with Reuters, Anne Karpeles said her son was always a bright child, a prodigy who was admitted to IQ society Mensa as a teenager. However, Anne says her son's people skills did not keep up with his intelligence.
She described Mark as a gifted child with a love of computing, but at the same time she pointed out he was a terrible student who was often taken advantage of.
Karpeles grew up in Dijon, France. Anne says he was always extremely nice and had a "tendency to let himself get taken for a ride by others". Mark was too conciliatory and his classmates took advantage by asking him to do their homework for them, Anne said.
"He was a terrible student. Terrible. Most subjects didn't interest him. He took a Mensa test, passed it and was admitted into Mensa [...] during his teenage years. Prodigies understand things straight away, but you don't learn without repetition, without exercises. But that he didn't understand," she told Reuters.
Anne says, like many gifted children, Mark had a difficult childhood. He was shuffled from school to school and at one school he had "big problems" with the teacher. As a result Anne tried and failed to get Mark interested in all sorts of hobbies, from drawing and music, to cookery and sewing. None of it worked until Anne shared her love of computers with her young son.
Self-taught PHP expert
Mark started programming BASIC on the family Sinclair when he was just five or six years old. He never went to university and decided to ditch formal education after a bad year in high school. Not long after, Anne saw him walking around with a huge book on PHP – a scripting language used for web development.
"He told me he had become a doctor in PHP."
Mark started working in tech and tried to set up a server company in Israel. He then joined software firm Nexway and in 2009 he was offered a post in Japan. He was happy to take the job, having long held a fascination for the Land of the Rising Sun.
However, even though his software career took off, Mark's people skills did not improve. Anne says Mark's communication at a personal level is "catastrophic" and that he is still an introvert.
She says the first time she heard Mark was involved in Mt. Gox was when a local reporter phoned her for comment. She had to look up Mt. Gox on Wikipedia and she does not appear to have any info other than what she could read in the media.
Anne says does not understand the allegations and that she would be shocked if Mark did anything dishonest.
Anne Karpeles said:
"I've never seen him do anything dishonest. He has sometimes trusted in people who were dishonest."
She added that she would not cover for Mark if there was dishonesty on his part. Anne also said she does not know anything about her son's previous computer fraud convictions (allegedly admitted to in a 2006 blog post).
Anne visited Mark in Japan last November and witnessed him working long hours, fending off cyber attacks, she said.