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Now you can pay rent in bitcoin, at least at this California mall magnate's apartments

Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

"I believe bitcoin and blockchain are going to be doing the same in the future," Caruso said. "We want to be ahead of the curve."

Blockchains are used for recording transactions made with cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, and have other applications Caruso may use in his planned rewards program.

Tesla announced in February that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would start accepting it as payment for its products, which include cars, solar panels and batteries.

Tesla said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that bitcoin would provide "more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash."

Musk has been a strong proponent of bitcoin on Twitter and elsewhere. But would he use the currency, which quadrupled in value in 2020, to pay the rent on a Tesla store?

"I haven't talked to Elon about it," Caruso said. "He may be the first, as a pioneer, to pay his rent in bitcoin."

Shoppers have returned to his malls as officials have eased coronavirus restrictions, and some retailers are seeing sales revenue at pre-pandemic levels or above, Caruso said.

"There has been so much forced savings in the economy," he said, "people are out spending money and doing it gladly because they have been cooped up for so long."

In addition to accepting bitcoin from retailers for rent, Caruso will now take bitcoin rent payments for his apartments. He has a combined 350 units for lease at the Americana, at Palisades Village in Pacific Palisades, and at 8500 Burton Way, a luxury complex near the Grove.

 

Gemini, which is based in New York, will administer Caruso's cryptocurrency operations.

"We are thrilled to partner with Caruso as they continue to push the real estate sector to new heights by embracing cryptocurrency for the benefit of both their customer experience and their own business operations," Gemini Chief Executive Tyler Winklevoss said in a statement. "We are excited to help them execute their digital asset treasury strategy and advise them more broadly throughout their cryptocurrency journey."

Caruso's new loyalty rewards program is still being developed but may become a widely used element of his cryptocurrency program and is intended to hold particular appeal for younger customers, he said.

Shoppers may accumulate points on a blockchain-based credit card that could be redeemed in fairly conventional ways, such as paying for visits to Caruso's Rosewood Miramar Beach resort in Montecito, where rooms go for more than $1,000 a night, or for more unusual rewards such as non-fungible tokens.

NFTs, as they are known, are a type of cryptocurrency that represents a unique digital asset, like a piece of art. An NFT version of Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey's first tweet sold for $2.9 million in March.

A blockchain-based system gives customers flexibility to redeem rewards in ways they find most appealing, Caruso said.

"There are billions of dollars worth of unredeemed rewards programs around the country because they are not engaging," he said. "People are quite engaged when it comes to cryptocurrency."

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