In a Major Consolidation of the NFT World, Bored Ape Yacht Club’s Founders Have Acquired CryptoPunks and Meebits

Three of the biggest NFT projects now have a single owner.

An algorithm-derived set of images made by Larva Labs. Photo courtesy Christie's.

Three of the biggest properties in the NFT universe now have the same owner. 

On Friday, Yuga Labs—the creator of the hyper-popular Bored Ape Yacht Club—announced it would acquire CryptoPunks, one of the oldest and most lucrative crypto-art entities, as well as the popular series Meebits. 

The announcement marks one of the first signs of major consolidation in the NFT world. Imagine if Delta announced it were buying American Airlines—and Southwest to boot. 

Yuga Labs, which was founded less than a year ago, purchased the intellectual property of the CryptoPunks and Meebits collections from their creator, Larva Labs. Yuga Labs also acquired 423 CryptoPunks and 1,711 Meebits from Larva Labs’s stockpile as part of the deal. The total value of the transaction was not disclosed. 

“Yuga Labs are the best in the world at what they do, and are the ideal stewards of the Crytopunks and Meebits,” the co-founders of Larva Labs, Matt Hall and John Watkinson, said in a statement. “In their hands, we are confident that they will continue to be vital, thriving projects in the emerging decentralized web.” 

To date, one of the biggest distinctions between BAYC and CryptoPunks owners was that the former owned the copyright to their NFTs, allowing them to profit from the art and make derivatives, while the latter did not. Following the acquisition, Yuga Labs plans to transfer I.P., commercial, and exclusive licensing rights to the individual NFT holders. 

Hall and Watkinson, two Canadian bitcoiners, created CryptoPunks in June 2017. Each of the 10,000 unique characters is a 24 by 24-pixel avatar whose individual traits—mohawks, bright eyeshadow, eye patches—are generated algorithmically. The character’s value is determined by the rarity of its features. 

Larva Labs released 9,000 Punks for free to any Ethereum user willing to claim them, while keeping 1,000 for themselves. (This was essentially how they paid themselves for their work on the project.) In the years since, the popularity of CryptoPunks has exploded—and so has their value on the secondary market, where total sales have reached $2.2 billion, according to OpenSea. In June 2021, a single alien punk sold at Sotheby’s for $11.75 million. Owners of the characters include celebs Jay-Z, Serena Williams, and Snoop Dogg. 

Larva Labs, Meebit #6337 (2021). Courtesy of Christie's.

Larva Labs, Meebit #6337 (2021). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Meebits, Larva Labs’s highly anticipated follow up to CryptoPunks, were released in May. They are 20,000 3D voxel characters, also created by a custom generative algorithm. In nine months, they have generated a total of $244 million in sales, according to OpenSea. 

CryptoPunks and Bored Apes had a different path to monetization. Yuga Labs receives a 2.5 percent royalty on each Bored Ape sale; to date, Bored Apes and their related characters (Mutant Apes and Bored Ape Kennel Club), have generated almost $2 billion. 

Larva Labs, meanwhile, put its eggs in the I.P. basket, signing with the Hollywood agency UTA last summer. It also generated money from its stockpile of Punks and Meebits, which it would strategically sell off. Both the I.P. and many of the stored-away NFTs are now owned by Yuga Labs.

The founders of Yuga Labs said they had no clear plans for their new NFT properties beyond “give people their IP, see what they build, and listen.” Holders of CryptoPunks and Meebits will receive new terms and conditions for their NFTs soon, according to the announcement.

Yuga Labs was founded in 2021 by the Miami-based crypto enthusiasts Wylie Aronow and Greg Solano. The duo operates under pseudonyms, but their identities were revealed by Buzzfeed in February. 

News of the acquisition immediately served to boost the prices of all three collections at a time when the war in Ukraine had prompted NFT prices to slide considerably. Less than two days after the announcement, the floor price (or lowest price) of a Bored Ape was up more than 30 percent, to 97 ETH ($250,000). The CryptoPunks floor price jumped 11 percent, to 75 ETH (about $195,000), and Meebits’ spiked 32 percent, to nearly 5.6 ETH ($14,500).

For more on Yuga Labs, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and their future in the NFT space, read our deep dive in Artnet News Pro.

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