LONDON — The CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Luno is stepping aside and handing the reins to its head of operations, the company announced Wednesday.
It comes as Luno’s parent company, crypto-focused venture capital firm Digital Currency Group, continues to reel from turmoil in the crypto market. Luno also recently laid off 35% of its global workforce.
Marcus Swanepoel, a South African former banker who founded Luno in 2013 with the aim of bringing crypto to the masses, will give up his CEO title after 10 years to become executive chairman, the company said in a press release Wednesday.
James Lanigan, Luno’s chief operating officer, will take over the reins as Luno’s new CEO. Lanigan joined Luno in 2018 and previously served as chief marketing officer for the restaurant reservation platform TheFork, formerly Bookatable.
As executive chairman, Swanepoel will spend less time in the day-to-day running of Luno, instead working with Lanigan and management to guide strategy and focus on broadening Luno’s investor base, the company said.
In a statement, Swanepoel said he was “excited for our next chapter as we continue to put the power of crypto in everyone’s hands.”
“The opportunity for crypto is bigger and brighter than ever, and James is a seasoned operator and an outstanding leader with a track record of success across all aspects of running a truly global fintech business.”
Luno said it has also hired investment banking firm Canaccord Genuity Group to help it raise new investment from outside investors. It marks the first time the company is opening up to new investors since being acquired by DCG in 2020.
Luno will aim to raise money from investors other than DCG to help it expand internationally, gain market share, and prepare for an eventual listing, Luno said in the press release.
DCG, Luno’s parent company, has been grappling with the ongoing fallout from last year’s plunge in token prices and the collapse of FTX, the controversial exchange whose failure in November sparked a series of bankruptcies in the industry.
Within DCG’s sprawling portfolio of crypto holdings, digital currency lender Genesis filed for bankruptcy protection owing creditors at least $3 billion, while Grayscale, the largest crypto asset management firm, faces questions over its exposure to FTX and the widening discount its bitcoin investment trust trades at relative to the underlying asset.
CoinDesk, the DCG-owned crypto news outlet, hired investment bank Lazard to explore a potential sale, CNBC previously reported.
A DCG spokesperson insisted Swanepoel’s job move was unrelated to the difficulties faced by Luno’s parent company and had been in the works for 12 months. Transitioning from CEO to executive chairman is a “common path for founder CEOs,” the spokesperson added.
“Having first invested in Luno’s seed round in 2014 followed by an acquisition in 2020, we want to thank Marcus for his dynamic leadership and enduring enthusiasm for the global crypto landscape as he transformed Luno into a digital asset powerhouse,” Barry Silbert, DCG’s founder and CEO, said in a statement Wednesday.
Swanepoel’s decision to step down as CEO caps off a litany of bad news surrounding Luno. The London-based firm, which has offices in Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe, laid off 35% of its workforce in January, citing market turbulence. The company also lost its co-founder and chief technology officer, Timothy Stranex, in December.
Despite the pain the industry has endured, digital currencies have shown signs of a recovery this year. Bitcoin is up 70% since the start of the year and is currently trading above $28,000 for the first time in nine months. Ether, the second-biggest token, has risen 50% year-to-date and is now worth $1,800 apiece.