‘Rent-Taker’ Dimon Will Lose in Cryptorevolution, Novogratz Says

  • Big bitcoin investor gives interview at Hudson River Park gala
  • De Niro honored with park bench on which Trump ‘not welcome’

Novogratz Says Bitcoin Is a Bubble

The cryptocurrency craze is so everywhere, it even came up at the Hudson River Park Friends annual benefit.

Mike Myers

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“If I had a nickel for every time someone asks me about bitcoin,” comedian and actor Mike Myers said Thursday night at his dinner table, without a hint of Dr. Evil smirk.

Curiosity verging on mania is what drove the price of bitcoin over $5,000 this week for the first time, and it’s why Hudson River Park Friends Chair Mike Novogratz is starting a $500 million hedge fund to invest in cryptocurrencies.

Novogratz, a former principal and macro fund manager at Fortress Investment Group, believes virtual currencies will be valued like “digital gold” and he’s raising money to invest in bitcoin, ether, initial coin offerings and related technology. Meantime, the Wall Street establishment led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief Jamie Dimon is taking an approach that ranges from cautious to dismissive.

Last month, Dimon called bitcoin a “fraud” and on a Thursday conference call said, “I wouldn’t put this high in the category of important things in the world.”

“Jamie Dimon gets paid to worry about bitcoin because he’s a rent-taker,” Novogratz said in an interview. “The decentralized revolution is about going after the rent-takers. His bank is in the crosshairs of the cryptorevolution. So he’s playing defense. He’s going to lose.”

Andrew Gray, a JPMorgan spokesman, reiterated the company’s view that it’s a believer in the blockchain technology and would support regulated cryptocurrencies.

Read more: JPMorgan, Like Wall Street Rivals, Is ‘Open Minded’ on Bitcoin

JPMorgan “is at the forefront in terms of trying to look at the efficiency, the scalability of those platforms,” Gray said in an emailed statement. “It is an over simplification of the issue to think that bitcoin is synonymous with blockchain or cryptocurrencies generally.”

Tokens Everywhere

While acknowledging that bitcoin and other so-called digital assets may be in a bubble, Novogratz expects that blockchain, the technology underlying bitcoin and ether, will transform the financial landscape.

Blockchain “will be a tool and then it will be a threat,” he said. “It will change the world. The internet’s promise is only happening now” and “in 15 years you’ll have tokens everywhere.”

Bitcoin has surged almost fivefold in 2017, and analyst Tom Lee of Fundstrat Global Advisors predicts it will reach $25,000 in five years. Novogratz, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, said it could hit $10,000 in six months.

Quick Take Q&A: What’s an ICO? Like an IPO But With Digital Coins

In addition to turning a profit, Novogratz, 52, said he hopes to make cryptocurrencies “more accessible” while occupying the role of an elder statesman in a community dominated by young coders.

“It’s kind of funny to be an adult in the room,” Novogratz said.

Back at the Hudson River Park benefit, Novogratz lamented the failure of the Pier 55 project funded by IAC/InterActiveCorp Chairman Barry Diller.

At the gala, looking at New Jersey -- with some camouflage from FDNY water cannons

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“The lesson I learned is we weren’t loud enough,” he said. “Elected officials didn’t hear our voice. So this community needs to be louder because we have five great projects in the pipeline.”

Among those projects are public art by David Hammons on Gansevoort Peninsula, and Pier 26, which will have a walkway that extends over the Hudson River as well as a science playground featuring models of two gigantic sturgeon to climb and slide on.

Donna and Michael Corbat

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Citigroup is contributing $10 million to Hudson River Park Trust to build Pier 26, a stone’s throw from the bank’s downtown Manhattan headquarters on Greenwich Street. CEO Michael Corbat, one of the benefit’s honorees, said the park is an amenity for employees, even if it means dodging strollers and dog-walkers on the way to work. He uses it for running.

Myers, briefly breaking into his Dr. Evil character, pretended he hatches diabolical plots while on walks with his family in the park.

“I look inwards to myself,” he said. “I look at New Jersey, I look at the water.”

Robert De Niro

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Also honored were Justin Sadrian of Warburg Pincus and Robert De Niro, who was told he’d get a park bench dedicated to him.

“One of the pleasures will be to keep people off my bench that don’t deserve the advantages of Hudson River Park,” the actor said. “Sorry Donald Trump. You’re not welcome on my bench.”

(The trust’s chair is Diana Taylor, the companion of Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.)

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