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MGT splits from John McAfee, turns focus to digital coin mining

(Bloomberg) -- Controversial anti-virus software developer John McAfee will soon be, in his words, “toiling in obscurity.”

MGT Capital Investments Inc., the cybersecurity company that recently shifted its focus to Bitcoin mining, has severed its relationship with McAfee and is considering a sale or spinoff of the cybersecurity arm he was meant to run, the company said in a statement Friday.

The decision was “totally amicable,” MGT’s chief executive officer Robert Ladd said in a phone interview, but added that the company, which had its shares delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in October 2016, was “getting some feedback that in order to get uplisted etc. it might be easier to not have John McAfee be an officer or director of the company.”

“The decision was mutual,” McAfee said in an email to Bloomberg News. “My interests have shifted almost 100 percent to the crypto world and I no longer wanted to divide my focus.”

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John McAfee Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

MGT shares fell 8.4 percent as of 10 a.m. in New York. The Harrison, New York-based company saw its stock surge more than 10-fold in the months after its May 2016 disclosure of ties to McAfee.

The company’s now shifting entirely toward a crypto craze that’s seen numerous small firms book massive share-price increases by reorienting their business to blockchain or coin mining. MGT says it operates computers that harvest Bitcoin and Ethereum, and Ladd says it’s not interested in issuing any his intention to join that fad.

“We don’t want to be seen as a Long Blockchain,” he said, referring to the Long Island tea maker whose shares tripled after simply changing its name. “It is pretty obvious what is going on and we want to distance ourselves because we have a legitimate cash flow generating business.”

McAfee, who is known for creating the first commercial antivirus software, gained notoriety in 2016 after Showtime released a documentary about a murder he allegedly committed while living in Belize. He has also developed a following on Twitter due to his somewhat unusual posts about Bitcoin.

McAfee served as “chief cybersecurity visionary,” a position he took in August after resigning as chairman and chief executive officer amid a company reorganization. He had been appointed CEO in November 2016. MGT had planned to switch its name to John McAfee Global Technologies, but the change never went through because of a legal dispute with Intel Corp., which acquired McAfee’s eponymous security-software company in 2010.

“I am very happy with my decision,” McAfee said in the MGT statement. “I am looking forward to toiling in obscurity as the world’s foremost authority of all things cyber and crypto!”