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MicroStrategy's Bitcoin Maximalist CEO Saylor Hands Job to Deputy, Takes Executive Chairman Role

·2 min read
Marco Bello

Michael Saylor, one of the most prominent bitcoin backers in corporate America, handed the chief executive officer role at MicroStrategy (MSTR) to a deputy and became executive chairman, putting his focus exclusively on hoarding cryptocurrencies.

He founded the company in 1989 as a software developer, but in recent years began buying billions of dollars of bitcoin with MicroStrategy's money -- much of it borrowed through debt sales. Phong Le, who had been the company's president, is the new CEO, according to a statement Tuesday.

“I believe that splitting the roles of Chairman and CEO will enable us to better pursue our two corporate strategies of acquiring and holding bitcoin and growing our enterprise analytics software business," Saylor said in the statement. "As Executive Chairman I will be able to focus more on our bitcoin acquisition strategy and related bitcoin advocacy initiatives, while Phong will be empowered as CEO to manage overall corporate operations."

Meanwhile, during the earnings conference call, Le said he doesn't expect any imminent strategy changes for the company and he's been aligned with Saylor on the enterprise and bitcoin strategy throughout their time together. He also applauded CFO Andrew Kang's handling of MicroStrategy's financial division, and said the overall changes will free up time for Le to run the company while Saylor focuses on corporate strategy, innovation and the bitcoin strategy.

"I would sort of see this as a business as usual transition," Le told analysts and investors during the conference call.

Saylor is handing off the CEO job at a time when his bitcoin bets have led to major losses at the company. In its second-quarter results also released Tuesday, MicroStrategy posted an impairment charge of $917.8 million on its bitcoin holdings, reflecting the sharp decline in bitcoin's price in the quarter. The company now owns approximately 130,000 bitcoin worth roughly $3 billion; they were acquired for a total of about $4 billion.

Le has served as MicroStrategy's president since July 2020 and has also served in various other senior executive positions since joining the company in 2015, including chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

MicroStrategy shares fell 1.2% in after-hours trading Tuesday. The stock has lost about half its value this year, roughly mimicking bitcoin's plunge.

MicroStrategy is planning to hold a call with analysts to discuss its second-quarter results at 5 p.m. ET.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Read more: Michael Saylor Says MicroStrategy Margin Call Talk Is ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

UPDATE (August 2, 20:51 UTC): Added details about company's digital impairment charge in the second quarter.

UPDATE (August 2, 21:34 UTC): Revises headline, first few paragraphs and updates stock price.

UPDATE (August 2, 22:58 UTC): Adds new CEO's comments from the earnings conference call.