Investment

Prominent family offices commit big sum to crypto platform founded by mysterious inventor

As cryptocurrencies become mainstream, more investors pour in. With a few exceptions,  family offices have stood on the sidelines. But a recent deal suggests more see the potential, especially around creating digital currency platforms wrapped around conventional financial services. 

Five investors, including two family offices, have committed $53 million to a digital asset infrastructure group that aims to create a global standard for institutional digital asset custody. Oakland, California-based Polysign was founded by mysterious crypto inventor Arthur Britto, whose reputation proceeds him given his role in creating the hugely successful Ripple payment protocol. 

His involvement in a crypto custody platform is exciting investors. Like West Palm Beach, Florida-based PilotRock Investments, and Greenwich, Connecticut-based Sandia Holdings. Both participated in the Series B round for Polysign.

PilotRock is owned by Thomas D. O’Malley, a financial trader and entrepreneur who built up a small oil refining business in California called Tosco into the biggest independent oil refiner and gasoline retailer in the US. 

He was a major shareholder in the business when it was sold in 2001 to Phillips Petroleum for $7 billion. O’Malley, who lives between Switzerland and Florida, also owns PilotRock Development, a German-based real estate group that develops commercial and residential properties in Berlin and Munich. 

Sandia Holdings is owned by Ian McKinnon, who spent nearly 20 years building up the hedge fund business for Ziff Brothers Investments. McKinnon retired in 2014 – a big reason why Ziff stopped taking external money and converted into a family office – and set up Sandia, which is named after the Sandia mountains near his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Britto was the co-developer of the XRP (Ripple) coin/payment protocol and co-founder of Ripple Labs. However, Britto’s very existence has been questioned, as he keeps a very low profile, with no image of him anywhere; there’s no photo of him on the staff profiles of Polysign.

Whoever Britto is, he is credited with helping to build Ripple Labs into a billion-dollar crypto platform. If he can spread his magic to Polysign, O’Malley and McKinnon will add handsomely to their already considerable fortunes.

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