The Block fires a third of staff — Larry Cermak is CEO, Wintermute’s Evgeny Gaevoy joins board

By Amy Castor and David Gerard

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Crypto news site The Block has laid off a third of its staff.

Larry Cermak, the site’s former head of research, has been promoted to CEO by the new company board, which features Evgeny Gaevoy of crypto hedge fund Wintermute — a former Celsius market-maker, and current FTX creditor. [Axios]

The move comes in the wake of The Block’s FTX funding scandal — when the news came out in December 2022 that then-CEO and majority owner Mike McCaffrey had taken secret loans from Sam Bankman-Fried to fund the site. They also blame the general crypto winter.


Frank Chaparro, Sam Bankman-Fried, Mike McCaffrey, Larry Cermak


The Wintermute Blockage

We wrote previously of how Wintermute seemingly came from nowhere, growing unusually quickly from what they claimed was Gaevoy’s genius for “arbitrage.”

Don’t worry too much about how the rise of Wintermute, and the excuses for it, are disconcertingly parallel to the story of FTX/Alameda — particularly the nigh-magical arbitrage and how Gaevoy is a mathematical genius, much as SBF was. [Forbes, 2022]

If we were sufficiently suspicious about crypto, we’d think Wintermute was proceeding with its widely promoted plan to become the replacement for FTX/Alameda, and was lining up The Block as a suitable media promoter for the new enterprise.

Gaevoy also appeared on The Block’s podcast “The Scoop” with Cermak and the site’s director of news, Frank Chaparro, two days before the announcement, on March 29. [The Block, archive]

But Gaevoy says that he isn’t funding The Block and isn’t being paid to be on the board. So we’re sure it’s all fine. [Twitter, archive]

Larry untethered

Cermak has been at The Block since it started in 2018. In 2018 and 2019, he was a rabid critic of Tether, Inc., its popular US dollar stablecoin of the same name, and its sister company, the Bitfinex crypto exchange. In fact, he was becoming a bit of a problem for Tether.

In October 2018, Cermak repeatedly leaked Bitfinex’s banking information. This led to the indictment of Bitfinex money mule Reggie Fowler and the New York Attorney General investigating Bitfinex and Tether — an investigation that cost the companies $18.5 million and ended up with them being kicked out of New York state. [Twitter, archive]

In March 2019, Cermak called the bitcoin community irrational and compared it to a cult, full of unrealistic expectations. In November 2019, Cermak boasted that he was unusual in the space because he had no holdings. “I don’t have any bitcoin. I don’t have any Ethereum. I would probably want to, but I want to stay unbiased.” [Medium, archive; YouTube]

But by 2020 — when Mike McCaffrey had taken over at The Block — Cermak had started buying crypto and playing the DeFi markets. [Twitter, 2020, archive; Twitter, 2021, archive]

Cermak also did a 180 on Tether. In a podcast debate in January 2021, Cermak said he believed Tether was fully backed “when it comes to dollars in bank accounts” and he thought the “majority of the funds are at Deltec in The Bahamas” — though he presented no evidence to support these statements.

Cermak used to have a column at The Block called “Skeptic’s Lens.” He may need to look up the word “skeptic.” [The Block, archive]

McCaffrey the wonder kid

The Block’s founder, Mike Dudas, had tried to keep the site going on venture funding — but it just wasn’t self-sufficient. Mike McCaffrey, who was 24 at the time, took over as CEO in April 2020.

A year later, in April 2021, McCaffrey led a buyout of The Block’s seed investors. McCaffrey became the majority owner and sole director of the company.

In December 2022, it came out that McCaffrey had taken three secret loans from Sam Bankman-Fried — $27 million to keep The Block funded, and $16 million for an apartment in the Bahamas.

Dudas said he had no knowledge that the funding came from Bankman-Fried, and that he had thought McCaffrey got the money from his wealthy family. Per Axios at the time, “With a mix of debt and cash from CEO Mike McCaffrey, the company returned to its investors 1.5 times the capital they paid in, plus interest.” [Fortune, 2020; Axios, 2021; TechCrunch, 2022]

McCaffrey stepped down from the Block — but Axios writes that McCaffrey is still a majority shareholder in the company, with all the rights of a majority shareholder.

John Jay Ray, the CEO of FTX in bankruptcy, doesn’t seem to have come calling on McCaffrey to claw back the loan from SBF — which would have been criminally misappropriated funds that FTX customers  likely have a claim on. It’s possible that when Ray does come calling, McCaffrey may have interesting things to say about that funding arrangement.

Journalism in the crypto ice age

After a Vancouver taxicab rant on the subject with Amy, who’d just quit Modern Consensus, David wrote in 2020 how you can’t make money in crypto news unless you become part of the crypto PR machine.

Promote crypto, do whatever you can to lure more retail dollars into the space, and crypto companies will wave money in front of you.

When it comes to crypto media, people will always wonder who your funders are and what you’re doing for them. Way too often, they’ll be quite correct to do so.

With the Block having lost a third of its staff, we guess nobody will have the spare time to put the lost archive of old stories back up. Wonder what might be lurking in there.

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10 Comments on “The Block fires a third of staff — Larry Cermak is CEO, Wintermute’s Evgeny Gaevoy joins board”

  1. So basically, it’s impossible to have a sustainable crypto-focused news organization that has a skeptical perspective on crypto?

    1. Disconcertingly so. The funding will either be single patronage or broad corruption. I rambled about this a bit in my piece on the death of Breaker too.

      Amy and I make a nice second income – about $1000/mo each, you can see the numbers on our Patreon pages – which is good for a newsletter, but it’s not a living.

      1. I wonder why that’s the case. In many other fields, even specialist ones, it seems that when necessary, they can be critical about the topics they cover. But it seems virtually every news organization that focuses on crypto is pro-crypto. There doesn’t seem to be any that are skeptical or even neutral. And no offense to Molly, she does great work, but her site, while great, isn’t exactly a news organization like CoinDesk or CoinTelegraph are.

        1. Matt Binder talked about this on Scam Economy (I can’t find the specific episode, sorry): crypto media cannot point out the glaring problems in crypto, because without crypto they and their funders are dead. They treat it as fragile rubbish that needs to be babied along, because they know it is. This is why Coindesk’s livewire feed is about half hopium rather than news these days – the news isn’t good, so they have to cheer the troops.

          1. Does this mean there simply is no market demand for a proper news organization that covers crypto from a skeptical or even a neutral perspective?

          2. The mainstream finance press cover it to the extent they do as a sideline, that’s all I can think of.

          3. The neutral news on crypto is “it’s all a scam. Steer clear of it”.

            There’s really no need to pay someone to say that every day.

    2. Its notorious that there is 10 or 100 times as much money in bunking as debunking. Laurie Penny published “Ship of Fools” in ?2019? and it has been all downhill for the cryptocurrency sector since then.

      The business and financial press has some substance to report on so can make money from that. What would the analogy be in blockchain where everything is hype and hoping for a greater fool?

  2. Gaevoy didn’t say he isn’t being paid. He said he’s receiving no cash compensation. He is almost certainly some form of equity compensation.

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