Moelis & Co., the investment bank founded by billionaire Ken Moelis, is starting a group to focus on global blockchain deals after a spate of transactions among crypto firms.

John Momtazee, who co-founded Moelis and is the global head of media investment banking, is overseeing the effort. Longtime venture investor Lou Kerner is joining the firm as a senior adviser to the group, reuniting the two executives who worked together more than 20 years ago.

Moelis is starting its effort as venture funding in the industry has tumbled and the price of Bitcoin has plummeted to less than one-third of its peak price of more than $68,000 in November.

The so-called crypto winter hasn’t phased Moelis. Companies including Celsius Network have filed for bankruptcy, while several large investors are mulling acquisitions.

“We love the timing. We think that to pile in on good days and say, ‘Here we are, ready to help,’ feels less genuine than when there’s a challenge,” Momtazee said in an interview. “Any disruptive technology is going to have volatility.”

Moelis has already been advising on deals in the industry. It was hired by crypto broker Voyager Digital Ltd., which has filed for bankruptcy and has reached out to dozens of potential strategic partners, according to a regulatory filing.

The New York-based investment bank has also worked with clients including Ripple Labs Inc. and CipherTrace, which was acquired last year by Mastercard Inc.

Crypto Wallets
Momtazee said the blockchain group will work with other industry teams across the nearly two dozen Moelis offices around the world. The interest within the firm has also been substantial. At a conference of the firm’s managing directors, Momtazee said more than 30% said they had crypto wallets.

“I suspect that the junior bankers and mid-level bankers actually are more active,” said Momtazee. “This is a young person’s world.”

Ken Moelis also personally has exposure to the space, becoming an investor in blockchain firm Paxos in 2020. Last year, he likened the crypto industry to the California gold rush of 1848, while also expressing some caution.

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