Crypto-backed charity plans closure and £17m Oxford property sale

03 Apr 2024 News

Wytham Abbey, Wytham, Oxford, Flickr

Dave Price

A charity funded by a failed cryptocurrency platform plans to close and sell a £17m Oxfordshire property it bought two years ago.

Effective Ventures (EV UK) plans to wind down in 2025, according to its recently filed accounts.

The charity’s board has also decided to sell Wytham Abbey near Oxford, which it purchased in 2022 after being given £17m from a non-crypto source to support its purchase.

EV UK had received money from failed cryptocurrency platform FTX and its linked foundation, but the charity said it repaid funding received in 2022 from these sources.

The charity is under investigation by the Charity Commission, a spokesperson for which said: “Our inquiry into Effective Ventures remains ongoing.

“We don’t routinely comment or provide updates on ongoing inquiries but do produce an inquiry report outlining our full findings on conclusion.”

Wytham Abbey up for sale

In April 2022, EVF purchased Wytham Abbey near Oxford and some land around it with the aim of using it as a “convening centre to run workshops and meetings” on the world’s biggest issues.

It received £17m from Open Philanthropy to support the purchase.

But trustees have now decided to sell the property, according to a statement from Elizabeth Garrett, the managing director of Wytham Abbey Project.

Garrett’s statement reads: “I’m sad to announce that the Wytham Abbey Project will be shutting down.

“Unfortunately, we did not meet the funding bar of our major funders, and the board has decided to sell the Wytham estate.”

Plan to wind down

EV UK’s accounts for the year to June 2023 state: “The trustees of EV UK decided that the charitable purposes for which the charity was set up would best be served by spinning out all of the projects which are currently fiscally sponsored by EV UK, into new independent entities.

“This process is expected to take between one and two years. The board of EV UK does not intend to fiscally sponsor new charitable projects, once the existing projects have spun out. It is therefore expected that EV UK will eventually wind down (in 2025 or beyond).”

The FTX Foundation, which shut down in November 2022 when Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX collapsed, was one of EV UK’s largest funders. 

Bankman-Fried has recently been sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $11bn in assets. His lawyer reiterated a pledge to appeal the sentence the same day.

The accounts state: “As has been widely reported in the press, one of EV UK’s funders, FTX Foundation (FTXF), filed for bankruptcy protection in the USA in November 2022. As a result, EV UK does not expect to receive any future grant income from this source.”

Income up

Total income at EV UK was £61.95m in 2022-23, up from £55.69 the year prior. The vast majority was from grant income and donations.

The charity’s total expenditure was also up year-on-year, at £58.30m compared with £35.8m.

Its report states that “significant effort” has been made to recruit new trustees, with one new trustee appointed and more expected this year.

EV reached a settlement agreement in relation to the repayment of FTX funds amounting to around £3.34m, the accounts show. 

“This amount is equal to the entire amount which EV UK received from FTX and the FTX Foundation during 2022,” a spokesperson for the charity previously told Civil Society.

A settlement with the bankruptcy estate of the funder provided a general release from all possible claims from the FTX estate.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the free Civil Society daily news bulletin here.



More on