Businessman Jonathan Rowland and his father David, who is famous for reportedly bankrolling Prince Andrew, have lost millions on a cryptocurrency venture that has gone to the wall. Jonathan, 47, is winding down much of Mode Global Holdings, a Bitcoin app he founded, after failing to secure the money it needed to survive.
Mode Global was the latest in a string of companies set up by the serial entrepreneur, with mixed success.
His father David, 77, a property tycoon and prominent donor to the Conservative party, had a stake in his son’s venture. Rowland senior, who was nicknamed ‘Spotty’ for his relative youth when he floated his first company on the stock exchange aged 23, has accumulated vast wealth through property and banking.
Royal links: Jonathan Rowland and his then partner Anya at Princess Eugenie’s wedding
Jonathan, keen to follow in the paternal footsteps, had grand ambitions for Mode. He wanted to transform it from a payments app to the ‘most trusted’ crypto company in the world. Christopher Isaac ‘Biz’ Stone, a US technology investor and co-founder of Twitter, also held shares.
Less than two-and-a-half years since Mode was listed on the London Stock Exchange, those dreams are in tatters.
Investors have seen their holdings virtually wiped out as the share price nosedived from its 77p peak in February 2021, when Mode was estimated to be worth £62 million, to half a penny last week.
However, it is far from the first embarrassment for the father and son duo, including over their relationship with Prince Andrew.
David Rowland – a long-time Guernsey resident who has been dubbed the ‘tax haven tycoon’ – has acted as the Duke of York’s financial adviser. He had a front-row seat at his daughter Princess Eugenie’s wedding in 2018.
The year before, Rowland senior reportedly paid off a £1.5 million loan for Andrew through his Luxembourg bank, Banque Havilland. Leaked documents revealed that the Duke of York had also sought a £200,000 loan from Jonathan Rowland, who was at the time chief executive of the bank. On another occasion, David and Jonathan flew to North Korea, widely viewed as a pariah state under dictator Kim Jong Un, to look at an ‘investment opportunity’.
David owns a palatial estate on Guernsey called Havilland Hall – where in 2005 Prince Andrew unveiled a lifesize bronze statue of Rowland smoking a cigar.
Backer: David Rowland paid off a £1.5 million loan for the Duke of York
Jonathan has struggled to emerge from his father’s shadow and emulate his success in business. After spending years as a racing driver, he first made headlines in his 20s, when he set up an internet investment company called Jellyworks. Its shares initially surged, and at its peak the firm was valued at £300 million.
But within six months it disappeared from the stock market amid difficulty raising fresh finance.More recently, he has co-founded a lender for small businesses called Redwood Bank, and was even linked to a bid for crisis-stricken football club Wigan Athletic.
His personal life has also been eventful. He once revealed he had a stroke while in bed with a woman he ‘shouldn’t have been with’ – but joked that at least she was there to call an ambulance.
Jonathan is heir to a fortune believed to run into hundreds of millions of pounds.
He and his father held around 30 per cent of shares in Mode Global but clearly were unwilling to stake any more family wealth on the venture. Mode will this week start winding up large sections of the business – shutting its app in the coming weeks and closing down subsidiaries Fibere and JGOO.
Earlier this month chief executive Rita Liu resigned.
Mode uses open banking to allow customers to transfer cash into their accounts, which they could then use to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It is also a payments app and customers could receive Bitcoin ‘cashback’ for purchases at its partner brands.
The group has urged customers to withdraw their cash but it is not clear if there is a deadline or how much money Mode is holding. The Bitcoin itself was held by a company called Bitgo.
Mode said that customers’ cash and cryptocurrency assets ‘will remain safe’ and there are no restrictions on withdrawals.
Jonathan declined to comment.
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