Canaan Executives Removed by Founder in Purge

Reading Time: 2 minutes
  • Canaan founder Zhang Nangeng has fired three directors and regained direct control
  • Zhang is now listed as sole director and general manager
  • Case has echoes of the Bitmain debacle

Canaan, the Bitcoin mining hardware producer, seems to be doing its best impression of its rival Bitmain after reports emerged towards the end of last week of a power struggle at the heart of the company. Zhang Nangeng, who founded Canaan in 2013 and has retained chairmanship for the last few years, has staged a Jihan Wu-style coup and regained direct control of the company, sacking three top executives and installing himself as general manager and sole director.

Canaan a Rocking Ship

Canaan had seemed on the outside to be a more stable cousin in the Bitcoin mining hardware game compared to the turbulent Bitmain, whose top executives have been engaged in a power struggle since mid-2019, but this turns out not to have been the case. Zhang, who founded Canaan in 2013, last week removed three of Canaan’s higher up executives from their positions as part of a long running feud, installing himself as sole director and general manager in the process.

Those on the outside have been surprised by the move, but insiders have recently reported that an internal struggle had been going on for some time, with Beijing-based Zhang pitted against the directors, who reside in the southern city of Hangzhou, where Canaan’s head office is based. Zhang previously served as the company’s CEO, and the company’s official page in the Chinese business registry now lists him as its sole director and legal representative.

Echoes of Bitmain Farce

Zhang’s power grab has certain similarities to the Bitmain debacle, in that Zhang and several directors from Canaan’s Beijing office have been accused of travelling to Hangzhou three weeks ago to take the official seal and the business license of the company. As we saw in the Bitmain case, obtaining control over these documents has allowed Zhang to gain majority control over the company and remove those directors from the Hangzhou office that he had the disagreements with.

It is not yet known exactly what has caused the rift at the top of the company, but it has been speculated that the clash is over the long term plans of the company. Canaan has posted consecutive quarterly losses and has seen their share price more than halve in two months.