Big on Bitcoin: Caruso now largest real estate firm to accept rent in cryptocurrency

Rick Caruso’s LA-based company embraces volatile currency across retail, commercial properties

Rick Caruso (Getty, iStock)
Rick Caruso (Getty, iStock)

Rick Caruso’s eponymous real estate firm is embracing cryptocurrency.

The Fairfax-based investment company will begin accepting rent payments in Bitcoin across its retail and commercial properties, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The firm also said it spent 1 percent of its cash reserves on Bitcoin and entered a partnership with Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange led by Tyler Winklevoss.

“We’ve allocated a percentage of what would normally go into the capital markets into Bitcoin,” Caruso said, in an interview with CNBC.

The move makes Caruso the largest real estate operator in the U.S. to accept Bitcoin for rent payments, according to Coindesk. The company’s Southern California holdings include the Grove mall, Miramar Beach Resort and the 240-unit Americana at Brand luxury rental complex.

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How many tenants will choose to pay in that currency remains to be seen. Its value fluctuates sharply — in the last three months a Bitcoin was worth between $30,000 and $60,000. As an example: A year ago, one Bitcoin traded below $5,000. Today, it’s worth more than 10 times that price.

Caruso isn’t the only investor to move into cryptocurrency. Morgan Stanley opened up access to Bitcoin for its wealth management clients earlier this year. And Goldman Sachs is expected to offer clients cryptocurrency investment vehicles in the near future.

Bitcoin is sometimes accepted in smaller real estate deals. In January, a New York City bar owner listed two properties that could be purchased in Bitcoin. And the owner of Miami Beach’s Treehouse nightclub listed the property in March, with cryptocurrency or cash accepted.

In February, Rick Caruso listed his Malibu mansion for sale. He listed the 7,200-square-foot home for $40 million in February, or roughly 693 bitcoin today; no word if he’ll accept the currency as payment.

[LAT] [CNBC] — Dennis Lynch