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BitTorrent Loses Recent CEO, Adds Crypto-Currency to uTorrent

Longtime BitTorrent executive and recent CEO Rogelio Choy left the company just 6 months after its acquisition by blockchain entrepreneur Justin Sun. Coincidentally, Choy’s departure comes just as BitTorrent is doubling down on blockchain tech: The company announced Thursday that it is adding a crypto-currency to its popular uTorrent client.

Choy had been BitTorrent’s chief operating officer from 2012 to 2015. After a 2-year stint at an on on-demand startup, he rejoined the company in 2017 as its CEO. His departure was confirmed by a company spokesperson Thursday, who said that he “decided to pursue other opportunities.”

The exact reasons for his departure are unknown at this time, but a source close to the company suggested that there had been disagreements about the direction of the company. Choy wasn’t available for comment.

A spokesperson for Sun’s Tron blockchain startup denied that there had been disagreements between Choy and Sun following the initial publication of this story. “The two had a good working relationship,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “People leave companies in normal course of business. Tron has been steadily filling out its executive ranks with hires of seasoned people from Google, S&P and elsewhere.”

One possible point of contention is BitTorrent’s increased focus on crypto-currencies: The company announced Thursday that it was adding a crypto token to its popular uTorrent Windows client. The token will initially allow uTorrent users to achieve faster download speeds.

Ultimately, the company plans to use the token for other use cases as well. “BitTorrent token is the first in a series of steps to support a decentralized internet,” said Sun in a blog post. “In one giant leap, the BitTorrent client can introduce blockchain to hundreds of millions of users around the world and empower a new generation of content creators with the tools to distribute their content directly to others on the web.”

The BitTorrent token will be made available on Binance, but won’t be available to U.S.-based users at launch. BitTorrent emphasized Thursday that users will always be able to opt out of the scheme as well.

In addition to heading Tron, Sun is now also CEO of a newly-founded BitTorrent foundation, which is incorporated in Singapore. Choy had been CEO of BitTorrent until the acquisition, and subsequently became general manager of Tron’s storage business.

His departure is just the latest in a long list of tumultuous executive changes the company underwent in recent years. Most notably, in 2016, two outside investors managed to buy themselves seats on the company’s board and install themselves as co-CEOS.

The duo 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.

Update: 9:40am: This post was updated with a statement from a Tron spokesperson.

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