File-sharing pioneer BitTorrent Inc. has been sold to Justin Sun, a blockchain entrepreneur best known for the Tron platform and its TRX cryptocurrency. The acquisition closed last week and staff has been notified of the deal, Variety has learned. Company representatives and Sun didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
Word about a possible acquisition of BitTorrent first got out last month, when TorrentFreak reported that Sun was pursuing the company. Sun first started talking to BitTorrent in September of last year, and signed a letter of intent to acquire it in January. The deal was briefly held up when BitTorrent started talking to additional bidders, which led to Sun filing for a temporary restraining order, arguing that BitTorrent agreed to not pursue any other offers.
However, Sun ultimately dropped its lawsuit, and proceeded to register a company called Rainberry Acquisition Inc. Coincidentally, BitTorrent had renamed its corporate entity to Rainberry Inc. at the beginning of last year.
Last week, Sun’s Rainberry Acquisition filed a change of status with the California Secretary of State due to a merger. Rainberry Inc., the company that owns BitTorrent, also filed for a merger on the very same day, strongly suggesting that the two companies had merged.
Variety has now learned that Sun has indeed acquired BitTorrent, with BitTorrent management informing staff about the deal last week. However, staffers have been advised not to talk to the press, according to a source with knowledge of the transaction. Some of the company’s shareholders have also since been contacted by the transfer agent hired for the deal.
Financial details about the acquisition weren’t immediately available, but Sun does have enough pocket change to pick up BitTorrent and its assets. The total market cap of his TRX cryptocurrency is currently around $4.78 billion, $1.65 billion of which are being held by Sun’s Tron Foundation.
The foundation claims that it wants to build what it calls a “decentralized internet,” allowing developers to build blockchain-based applications. It’s unclear how exactly Tron plans to integrate with BitTorrent.
The deal is just the latest in a long and tumultuous corporate history for BitTorrent. The company raised millions a decade ago to build an entertainment business on top of its P2P. Those plans failed and BitTorrent was forced to lay off much of its staff, and recapitalize, in 2008. In the following years, BitTorrent proceeded to grow its business through ads and bundled software, at one point reaching 150 million monthly active users.
In 2016, two outside investors acquired one of the original investor’s stake in the company. Those investors not only got seats on BitTorrent’s board, but also briefly became co-CEOs of the company and spearheaded an expensive expansion into the media space, including the opening of a Los Angeles production facility. Those efforts ultimately faltered; both CEOs were fired that same year, and the company shut down its L.A. studio space and effectively shuttered its media operations.
BitTorrent also proceeded to shut down its live streaming business last year. Some of the core technology for BitTorrent Live had been developed by BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen, who has since moved on from the company. Cohen is now CEO of Chia, a cryptocurrency company with no relations to Sun’s Tron.