COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — John Warren — the multimillionaire businessman who forced South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster into a GOP runoff — has been mining bitcoins while leaving the door open for a return to politics.
Warren announced his investment in GEM Mining on Wednesday. He and four other founding partners, all in South Carolina, decided to form the venture last year as the Bitcoin marketplace began booming, Warren told The Associated Press ahead of the official launch.
“We saw huge opportunities with our connections to mining,” Warren told AP. He said the Greenville-based company will be the largest of its kind in South Carolina, and that he hopes it will soon be among the top handful in the country.
Warren said GEM has raised more than $200 million in institutional capital from banks, hedge funds, endowments and pension funds to operate more than 32,000 machines to mine Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency.
Over 9,000 of the machines are currently operational, mining more than 400 bitcoins in the past nine months. Profitable since February, GEM said its November reported revenue was $7.8 million.
Miners are specialized computing centers that create bitcoins by solving computational puzzles. Mining operations also maintain the transactions ledger upon which Bitcoin is based, verifying the trustworthiness of the blockchain system.
A criticism lobbed at cryptocurrencies is how much electricity they devour. Warren's company said its operations are 92% carbon neutral.
This is the first business venture for Warren since selling Lima One Capital, the specialty mortgage firm he founded, in 2019.
Warren leveraged more than $3 million of his own money to fund his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, which catapulted him from political anonymity to second-place finisher in a four-way GOP primary.
Even though he'd entered the race just months before the primary, Warren netted the endorsements of two of the also-rans before narrowly losing to McMaster in a contentious runoff.
That campaign sprint included a last-minute trip from President Donald Trump to stump for McMaster, who as lieutenant governor had been the first statewide-elected politician in the country to back Trump's 2016 White House bid. McMaster ultimately won by a single-digit margin.
Some have speculated that Warren would challenge McMaster in a rematch next year. Warren launched a political action committee last year, a vehicle often used as the springboard for a political run.
His South Carolina's Conservative Future PAC supported a handful of legislative races, with Warren then telling AP he hoped to recruit “conservative, capable and courageous” candidates for state House and Senate races and make independent expenditures to further those campaigns. Ultimately, the PAC claimed victory in 13 out of the 15 races in which it got involved.
Warren told AP his PAC will “play a very, very large role in next year’s elections, especially with superintendent of education and several House races." As for the governor's race, he said he had "no comment.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.