Julian Sawyer’s tenure as the CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp has come to an abrupt end. After just over 18 months spearheading the company, Sawyer has been replaced by JB Graftieaux.

Whispers about a leadership change started to circulate on Sunday after crypto watchers noticed that Sawyer had changed his bio on both Twitter and LinkedIn to read “ex-CEO of Bitstamp.”

Verdict has reached out to Sawyer on both social media channels to get some clarity into why he is leaving the company. He did not return our requests for comment before the publication of this story. Sawyer joined Bitstamp in October 2020.

Bitstamp was slightly more vocal about it swapping bosses. It confirmed the rumours on Monday, saying Sawyer “has decided to pursue other opportunities, and [he and] the Bitstamp board of directors have worked together closely to ensure this was a seamless transition.”

A Bitstamp spokesperson added: “Bitstamp thanks Julian Sawyer for his hard work and commitment to growing Bitstamp as a globally recognised and trusted brand.”

Bitstamp said Graftieaux joined the exchange in May 2021 as the company’s Europe CEO. The blockchain business also emphasised the new crypto chieftain’s corporate chops, saying he’s a 20-year tech veteran who’s held down roles at PayPal and eBay. He is also a returning hire, having served as Bitstamp’s chief compliance officer between 2014 and 2016.

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“As the longest-running and highly trusted crypto exchange in the world serving millions of users, our strategic vision is to help build the financial ecosystem of tomorrow,” said Graftieaux. “Together with our highly experienced executive leadership team, and more than 500 employees, we are well positioned to continue to accelerate crypto access for our valued clients and partners across the globe. As global CEO, I look forward to building on this strong foundation.”

Crypto watchers may notice that the corporate spiel about Bitstamp’s longish history are basically the same talking points Sawyer provided when Verdict interviewed the ex-CEO earlier this year.

Sawyer had previously served as a founder of UK neobank Starling Bank after the first founding team, led by former CTO Tom Blomfield, left to launch Monzo.

Bitstamp changing CEO comes after crypto boom

The change in Bitstamp’s leadership comes at a time of massive growth for the cryptocurrency industry in general. After slumping slightly between 2019 and 2020, investment into the crypto space came back with a vengeance in 2021.

Venture capital investors injected over $26.29bn into cryptocurrency companies in 2021, according to research firm GlobalData. That’s up from $3.34bn injected into the sector in 2020. The sector has also been off to a good start in 2022. VCs have splurged $9.58bn into the industry so far.

The investment boom coincided with the explosion of cryptocurrency trading in general. During the course of the pandemic, Bitcoin, Ether and other forms of digital dosh saw their value skyrocket to record heights. The industry has also been re-energised by the growing popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

However, the value of most major cryptocurrencies plummeted at the start of the year. The fall occurred as central banks around the world raised recession concerns. Russia's invasion of Ukraine also added to the market uncertainties.

While some analysts have argued that Covid-19 proved Bitcoin's status as a safe haven asset like gold, the digital dosh's inability to recover despite the war has put that notion into doubt.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.