Fortress Investment, Benchmark Capital, Ribbit invest in bitcoin fund

March 19 Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:39am EDT

March 19 (Reuters) - Pantera Capital Management LP said three prominent investment firms - Benchmark Capital, Fortress Investment Group and Ribbit Capital - are acquiring an interest in its bitcoin fund.

The investments in Pantera Bitcoin Partners LLC come at a time when the virtual currency is under close scrutiny by regulators after Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, the world's largest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy, saying hackers had taken around 850,000 bitcoins.

Pantera, which was founded in 2003 and until recently focused on global macro-hedge fund investments, said it is turning its attention to investment advisory services exclusively for bitcoin, other digital currencies and other related companies.

Ribbit, founded by financial services entrepreneur Micky Malka, and Fortress have committed to buying and selling virtual currencies, including bitcoin, through Pantera.

Fortress Investment said last month it incurred a $3.7 million paper loss last year on an investment in bitcoin.

"We believe Bitcoin is at an inflection point, making it the right time for a transition to more institutional management," said Dan Morehead, Pantera's founder and CEO.

The collapse of Mt. Gox late last month was a setback for bitcoin, which began circulating in 2009, but many believe the virtual currency will emerge with a more robust system. Supporters of the crypto-currency expect some early investors to exit, with more experienced financial services professionals getting involved in bitcoin.

Benchmark Capital has previously backed companies such as eBay and Twitter. (Reporting by Chris Peters and Supriya Kurane in Bangalore; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)