“Satoshi Nakamoto” hired David Bowie’s PR agency for his big reveal

“Now, check that I’ve got nothing up my sleeve…”
“Now, check that I’ve got nothing up my sleeve…”
Image: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
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If Craig Wright, the man who claims to be bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, was seeking carefully calibrated, rockstar-level publicity around his big reveal, he probably couldn’t have picked a more suitable PR agency to help him find it.

Wright is being represented by the Outside Organisation, a London agency that has achieved legendary status in the industry for working with clients like David Bowie, David and Victoria Beckham, and the Spice Girls, among a long list of other showbiz stars.

The agency got plenty of training for Wright’s revelations by working with the reclusive, unpredictable, and technology-fixated Bowie for over 30 years. This includes controlling the press around the musician’s 2013 album The Next Day, which was recorded in secret and caught even the most obsessed Bowie-watchers by surprise. Outside’s founder, Alan Edwards, knew Bowie so well he contributed exhibits to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s landmark show examining the star’s work, held the same year. 

So widely acknowledged is Edwards’ mastery of the media that he got his own, three-week show at the V&A last year. In doing press for that show, Edwards described his methods of communicating for his clients as “like conducting an orchestra.

It seems Outside has brought this experience to bear on Wright. Bitcoin luminaries have described being taken to a Covent Garden hotel (top bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen was flown in from the US for the occasion) to witness Wright’s claimed cryptographic proof of his identity. As the astonished experts looked on, Wright performed cryptographic feats intended to remove all doubt from their minds that they were in the presence of bitcoin’s mythical creator.

Journalists from three publications were selected for similar “proof sessions” with Wright, and were made to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to participate. This resulted in the simultaneous publication, on May 2, of pieces describing Wright’s claims in the Economist, GQ, and the BBC, practically guaranteeing it top billing in the day’s news cycle.

Outside won’t discuss how Wright ended up its client, or how it chooses clients. When asked, Nicholas Caley, Outside’s corporate communications head, said only that the firm ”had a broad range of clients.”

The spotlight trained on Wright is set to intensify. After initially promising further cryptographic acts to back up his claim, amid a storm of doubt from the bitcoin world, he has now made a U-turn, saying that he now realizes he doesn’t possess the emotional fortitude to do so. Outside’s tightly choreographed contribution to the legend of bitcoin’s creator can perhaps be summed up by the title chosen by the V&A for its show about the agency and its business: ”Always Print the Myth: PR and the Modern Age.”

This story was updated with news that Craig Wright would no longer provide new proof backing up his claims.