In May, Facebook said David Marcus was leaving his role running Messenger to start an internal blockchain initiative. Since the moment, a big question has been circling in the crypto world: What about his seat on Coinbase's board?
Coinbase, the leading exchange for bitcoin and other digital currencies, is the clear breakout success in the early days of blockchain, reaching a valuation of $8 billion on a reported $1 billion in revenue last year. While Facebook hasn't talked publicly about its plans in blockchain, speculation has swirled that the social network could make a big splash in the fledgling market, through a potential acquisition of Coinbase.
With that in mind, Marcus put any talk of a conflict to rest on Friday — by stepping down from Coinbase's board.
"Under David's leadership Facebook is poised to be one of the leading players in crypto and an active acquirer," said Ryan Gilbert, a partner at Propel Venture Partners and a small Coinbase investor. "Who knows, one day an acquisition of Coinbase could be in the cards."
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the rumors, but said one reason Marcus left the Coinbase board was "to avoid the appearance of conflict, rather than because of an actual conflict."
Marcus previously founded a payments start-up, then sold it to PayPal — then became president of PayPal. He only just joined the Coinbase board in December. At the time, he said that he was excited to help Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong "democratize access to cryptocurrencies."
Here's what Marcus said in a statement on Friday as to why, eight months later, he's leaving the board:
"Because of the new group I'm setting up at Facebook around Blockchain, I've decided it was appropriate for me to resign from the Coinbase board. Getting to know Brian, who's become a friend, and the whole Coinbase leadership team and board has been an immense privilege. I've been thoroughly impressed by the talent and execution the team has demonstrated during my tenure, and I wish the team all the success it deserves going forward.