Tilman Fertitta Says His Luxury Dealership Has Sold 17 Cars to Buyers Using Bitcoin Since 2018

Adam Jeffery | CNBC
  • Tilman Fertitta told CNBC on Tuesday his luxury car dealership in Houston has sold 17 vehicles to buyers using bitcoin since 2018.
  • "We've always talked about being innovative and ahead of everybody else," the businessman said.
  • His comments followed the news that Tesla planned to start accepting the digital currency as a form of payment.

Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta told CNBC on Tuesday his luxury car dealership has sold more than a dozen vehicles to buyers using bitcoin since it began accepting the digital currency as payment nearly three years ago.

Fertitta's comments on "Power Lunch" came one day after Tesla announced plans to begin accepting bitcoin as payment for its products. The electric-vehicle maker also said it purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin using cash on its balance sheet.

"Tesla taking it is much more important than me taking it, but believe it or not, we've sold 17 cars — Bentleys and [Rolls-Royces] — with bitcoin," said Fertitta, who also runs a vast hospitality empire as chairman and CEO of Houston-based Landry's Inc.

Fertitta's Post Oak Motor Cars first began to accept bitcoin in 2018, according to The Houston Chronicle. He told CNBC the idea of accepting bitcoin transactions came from his team of employees. "We've always talked about being innovative and ahead of everybody else and don't be a dinosaur around here or you won't last," he said.

In its filing Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla said it will start accepting bitcoin as a payment in the near future, "subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis, which we may or may not liquidate upon receipt." If that happens, Tesla would become the first major automaker to accept the digital coin.

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value, has seen its price surge higher after the Tesla news became public. It was trading above $47,000 per coin Tuesday afternoon.

At the time Fertitta's dealership adopted bitcoin for transactions, the volatile digital coin traded around $6,000 to $7,000 apiece. It was in the midst of a roughly yearlong backslide, falling below $4,000 by December 2018. Bitcoin's price had peaked just below $20,000 in December 2017.

Bitcoin began a robust rally last year, breaking past its 2017 high in late November. A number of factors have been attributed to the digital coin's big run, including adoption by high-profile investors who have touted its potential as a hedge against inflation. Established companies such as PayPal also have entered the crypto space, and some suggest that institutional adoption has helped fuel bitcoin's upside move.

Tesla's adoption offers "powerful endorsements" for bitcoin as a store of value and as a means of payment, Allianz chief economic advisor Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC on Monday.

Fertitta has spoken positively about bitcoin for years, telling CNBC in December 2017 he believed it was "here to stay."

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