Satoshi Nakamoto, a name known to legions of bitcoin traders,
practitioners and boosters around the world, appeared to lose his
anonymity on Thursday after Newsweek published a story that said he
lived in Temple City, California, just east of Los Angeles.
Newsweek included a photograph and described a short interview, in
which Nakamoto said he was no longer associated with Bitcoin and
that it had been turned over to other people. The magazine concluded
that the man was the same Nakamoto who founded Bitcoin.
Dozens of reporters, including a sprinkling of Japanese media,
encircled and camped outside the man's two-story house on Thursday
morning, accosting the mailman and repeatedly ringing the doorbell,
to no avail. Police cruisers drove by several times but did not
Several times, someone pulled back the drapes on an upstairs window.
In the afternoon, the silver-haired, bespectacled Nakamoto stepped
outside, dressed in a gray sport coat and green striped shirt, with
a pen tucked in his shirt pocket. He was mobbed by reporters and
told them he was looking for someone who understood Japanese to buy
him a free lunch.
Newsweek estimates his wealth at $400 million.
"I'm not involved in Bitcoin. Wait a minute, I want my free lunch
first. I'm going with this guy," Nakamoto said, pointing at a
reporter from AP. "I'm not in Bitcoin, I don't know anything about
it," he said again while walking down the street with several
cameras at his heels.
He and the AP reporter made their way to a nearby sushi restaurant
with media in tow, before leaving and heading downtown. Los Angeles
Times reporter Joe Bel Bruno followed the pair and described the
chase in a running stream of tweets. Eventually, the pair dashed
into the Associated Press offices in downtown Los Angeles.
In a later AP interview, Nakamoto said he was misunderstood in a key
portion of the Newsweek story, where he tells the reporter on his
doorstep, "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it."
Asked by the AP if he had said that, Nakamoto said, "No."
"I'm saying I'm no longer in engineering. That's it," he told the
AP. "And even if I was, when we get hired, you have to sign this
document, contract saying you will not reveal anything we divulge
during and after employment. So that's what I implied."
"It sounded like I was involved before with Bitcoin and looked like
I'm not involved now. That's not what I meant. I want to clarify
that," the AP reported him as saying.
The Bitcoin Foundation, an advocacy group promoting the adoption of
the digital currency, said "... We have seen zero conclusive
evidence that the identified person is the designer of Bitcoin."
"Those closest to the Bitcoin project, the informal team of core
developers, have always been unaware of Nakamoto's true identity, as
Nakamoto communicated purely through electronic means," it said in a
post on its website.
[to top of second column]
Newsweek writer Leah McGrath Goodman told the AP that she stood by
her story. "I stand completely by my exchange with Mr. Nakamoto.
There was no confusion whatsoever about the context of our
conversation — and his acknowledgment of his involvement in
"FOCUSED AND ECLECTIC"
Fans see Bitcoin as a digital-world currency beyond government
interference, while critics, whose ranks swelled with the recent
bankruptcy filing by major bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, see a risky
investment whose anonymity aids drug dealers and other criminals.
Nakamoto kept a low profile in part to avoid the attention of
authorities, Newsweek said. On Thursday, the office of Benjamin
Lawsky, superintendent of New York's Department of Financial
Services, was keen on speaking with him, a source familiar with the
situation told Reuters.
Bitcoin is bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of
central control. Its value soared last year, and the total worth of
bitcoins minted is now about $7 billion.
In the Newsweek article, Nakamoto was credited by Bitcoin's chief
scientist, Gavin Andresen, in working out the first codes behind the
A man of few words who refused to discuss anything beyond the
currency or even communicate outside of email, Nakamoto was
described by his brother in the Newsweek article as "fickle and has
very weird hobbies," including a penchant for model trains.
Japanese-born Nakamoto displayed an unusual aptitude for math as a
child. He immigrated with his mother to California in 1959. He
worked for defense and electronics company Hughes Aircraft, but
never discussed work because much of it was classified, according to
Newsweek interviews with several friends and relatives.
"He's very focused and eclectic in his way of thinking. Smart,
intelligent, mathematics, engineering, computers. You name it, he
can do it," Newsweek quoted Arthur Nakamoto, his younger brother, as
(Reporting by Brandon Lowrey; and Aron Ranen, with additional
reporting by Chris Peters; writing by Edwin Chan; editing by Peter
Henderson and Ian Geoghegan)
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