Controversial Bitcoin billionaire Mircea Popescu, 41, has suddenly died, leaving behind a massive crypto fortune that could be worth as much as $2 billion — which some speculate could be lost forever.
Popescu, known for being among the largest individual holders of Bitcoin in the world at one point, drowned last week off the coast of Costa Rica near Playa Hermosa after going for a morning swim, according to local news reports.
Popescu was reportedly “swept away by the current and died on the spot.”
His death has since been confirmed by three women who were reportedly known to be close to him, though others have raised questions over whether he’s actually dead.
His website, which he previously actively maintained, has not been updated since June 23, the day of his reported death.
Popescu, a controversial figure with “documented instances of sexism and bigotry,” according to Nasdaq.com, was estimated to hold at least tens of thousands of Bitcoins, with some estimating even larger holdings.
The lower end of those estimates would place the value of Popescu’s ownership close to $2 billion, based on the peak value of Bitcoin reached in April. Based on Bitcoin’s current value, his holdings would have been worth closer to $1 billion.
It remains unclear who, if anyone, has access to his digital assets, and crypto watchers are already speculating that the fortune could be gone.
Alexander Marder, a research analyst for Crypto Briefing, said on Twitter that Popescu’s Bitcoins may be lost forever, along with those of John McAfee, the antivirus software pioneer who hanged himself in a Spanish jail cell last week.
Anthony Pompliano, founder of Pomp Investments and noted Bitcoin bull, said in a since-deleted tweet that the loss of Popescu’s holdings could benefit other current holders of the crypto.
“Mircea Popescu, a Bitcoin OG, has passed away. He likely owned quite a bit of bitcoin,” Pompliano said on June 27 in the since-deleted tweet. “We may never know how much or if they are lost forever, but reminds me [of what] Satoshi said: ‘Lost coins only make everyone else’s coins worth slightly more. Think of it as a donation to everyone.’”
Pompliano appeared to be referencing a quote attributed to Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the anonymous person or people who developed Bitcoin.
Others in the crypto space mourned the loss of Popescu, who was known as a Bitcoin pioneer and early adopter.
Pete Rizzo, editor of Bitcoin Magazine, noted Popescu was known as “The Father of Bitcoin Toxicity” by some.
Popescu’s most high-profile crypto venture was likely MPex, a self-styled Bitcoin securities exchange, which he launched in 2012, long before Bitcoin received its current-day popularity.
The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated MPex in 2014, according to emails released by Popescu himself.