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Ex-NYSE President Tom Farley's SPAC to Merge With Bullish to Bring Planned Crypto Exchange Public

Anjali Sundaram | CNBC
  • Tom Farley's Far Peak Acquisition Corp. announced a deal Friday to bring crypto start-up Bullish public.
  • Farley's Far Peak Acquisition Corp. SPAC was up more than 2% in late-morning trading on the news.
  • Backed by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, Bullish plans to launch a cryptocurrency exchange later this year.
  • Farley, formerly the New York Stock Exchange president, will serve as CEO of Bullish when the deal closes.

Crypto start-up Bullish plans to go public in a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company backed by Tom Farley, former president of the New York Stock Exchange.

Farley's Far Peak Acquisition Corp. SPAC was up more than 2% in late-morning trading on the news.

The deal, announced Friday, is expected to close by the end of 2021 — and Farley, who oversaw the NYSE from 2014 to 2018, will become CEO of Bullish when that happens.

"This is a big idea whose time has come," Farley said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," shortly after the deal was announced.

"Digital assets are here to stay. The smartest engineering talent is going into digital assets; digital assets are solving very important problems. Anybody who tells you they know exactly how it's going to turn out is lying or delusional, but in general, you're going to see more and more interesting use cases, more and more dollars go into the space," he added.

Farley's plan to lead the cryptocurrency exchange is noteworthy given his experience with financial regulators from his time at the NYSE. The prospect of additional regulation in the U.S. is being watched closely by the crypto industry.

Bullish expects to receive around $600 million in proceeds from Far Peak, plus another $300 million through a PIPE, or private investment in public equity. A host of big-name investors are participating in the PIPE, including BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, and Mike Novogratz's crypto-focused financial services firm Galaxy Digital.

The merger between Far Peak and Bullish implies a pro forma equity value of roughly $9 billion, according to a press release.

Bullish intends to launch "a revolutionary, regulated cryptocurrency exchange" later this year, with a private pilot program beginning in the coming weeks, the press release said. The exchange will offer "deep, predictable liquidity with technology that enables retail and institutional investors to generate yield from their digital assets," the release said.

Bullish started in May as a subsidiary of Block.one, a blockchain company with backing from well-known investors including Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder and prominent venture capitalist.

Thiel's firms, Thiel Capital and Founders Fund, participated in Bullish's capital raise in May. Additional investors in Bullish include British hedge fund manager Alan Howard, Galaxy Digital and Richard Li, a billionaire businessman from Hong Kong.

The institutional adoption of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has been a big topic in the past year. Companies such as Tesla and Square have invested in bitcoin to hold on their balance sheet, and major Wall Street banks have taken steps to provide wealth management clients exposure to digital assets.

In April, the most popular U.S. crypto exchange, Coinbase, went public through a direct listing on the Nasdaq, a development that was heralded as a watershed for the nascent yet ascendant industry.

Coinbase's public market debut coincided with bitcoin's current all-time high near $65,000 per unit. However, the world's largest cryptocurrency by market value has struggled since then due to a number of factors, including the Chinese government intensifying its crypto crackdown. Bitcoin traded below $33,000 on Friday morning. Last month, it plunged briefly below $29,000 where it started the year.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as ether run on decentralized digital ledgers known as blockchains. While the digital asset industry has its fierce critics, its supporters see potential to disrupt traditional finance with the use of so-called smart contracts and other blockchain-related innovations.

In a CNBC interview in April, Farley said he believes the crypto space is "the best kept secret in the world and maybe the history of the financial markets."

In 2015, while Farley was still president, the NYSE made a minority investment in Coinbase.

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