US billionaire Mark Cuban warms to cryptocurrency, but only a little

NBA owner whose team accepts Bitcoin admits it can work technically but still questions its security


American billionaire Mark Cuban, one of the richest and most vocal cryptocurrency sceptics in the world, has backtracked from his recent highly critical comments about Bitcoin.

In an email to Forbes, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and star of TV's business-pitching show Shark Tank still insisted that the world’s most popular cryptocurrency has “no chance” of becoming a “reliable financial instrument”.

But he observed this was “not because it can’t work technically. But rather because it’s too difficult to use, too easy to hack, way too easy to lose, too hard to understand, too hard to assess a value.

This was a step back from his comments in a YouTube video Q&A this year, when Cuban compared Bitcoin to comic books or baseball cards, saying it had “no intrinsic value”. He went on to say: “I’d rather have bananas, I can eat bananas. Crypto… not so much.”

Some argue that Cuban’s actions contradict his bearish attitude. His own basketball team now accepts Bitcoin payments for tickets and merchandise, only the second NBA team to do so.

And in 2017 Unikrn, an E-Sports betting start-up backed by Cuban, raised $31m (£23.5m, €28m) in an initial coin offering (ICO). Cuban admitted at the time the project was “high-risk, high reward”. However the class action lawsuit that followed may have pushed him away from crypto towards potassium-rich fruit.

High-profile American billionaires are split on cryptocurrencies. Warren Buffet has previously said Bitcoin “has no unique value” and is “probably rat poison squared”.

On the other hand, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has commended cryptos for bypassing currency controls, observing: “Crypto is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper. That’s for sure. Without a doubt.”

Fellow PayPal founder Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook is also pro-crypto, once saying: “I would be long Bitcoin. There will be one online equivalent to gold, and the one you’d bet on would be the biggest.”

Further Reading: The charts that suggest that Bitcoin will drop to $6,000

Further Reading: Bitcoin halving: could it reach $170K per coin?

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