Collapse of "Let's Go Brandon" Meme Coin Sparks Billion-Dollar Court Battle

Brandon Brown's race team unveiled its LGBcoin look in early 2022
Brandon Brown's race team unveiled its LGBcoin look in early 2022 Screenshot via LGBcoin/YouTube
Investors who poured money into a "Let's Go Brandon" meme coin got a rude awakening at the dawn of 2022 when NASCAR allegedly axed the cryptocurrency's presumed sponsorship with driver Brandon Brown's racing team.

The combined value of the meme coins, branded around the popular anti-Joe Biden catchphrase, plummeted from an estimated $570 million to near zero after the sponsorship went belly-up. The market for the digital currency — which apparently hinged on the hope that the "Let's Go Brandon" logo would be plastered all over a NASCAR racecar — vaporized in a matter of weeks.

The Foundation, a Cayman Islands-registered entity that backed the coin, now wants NASCAR to pay for allegedly reneging on approving the deal. The foundation claims NASCAR's director of racing operations approved the sponsorship in December 2021, only for NASCAR to backtrack a few days later amid fears the deal would spark political controversy.

The Miami-based foundation sued NASCAR in Miami-Dade County court on February 17, claiming the racing association "must pay monetary damages of no less than $391 million" to make things right for Let's Go Brandon coin holders for revoking the sponsorship.

Miami Beach investment fund manager and Typhon Capital chief executive James Koutoulas was one of the key promoters of the coin, branded as LGBcoin, and served as the foundation's trustee when the NASCAR fallout transpired, according to court documents.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, AKA NASCAR, is the sole defendant in the lawsuit (attached below).

A defamation count in the case alleges that NASCAR insiders made disparaging comments about LGBcoin to media outlets, calling it worthless and indicating that NASCAR never approved the deal.

"NASCAR's false and defamatory statements have been, and continue to be, widely disseminated causing [Let's Go Brandon coin] not only past and current harm, but perpetual harm of at least a billion dollars beyond the $391 million in damages caused by the revocation of the sponsorship," the lawsuit claims.

NASCAR has not responded to a request for comment submitted via email by New Times.

The association's president Steve Phelps previously lamented that NASCAR was the genesis of the not-so-inside joke that "Let's Go Brandon" was a euphemism for "Fuck You, Biden."

For the uninitiated: The catchphrase arose out of an incident in which chants of "Fuck You, Biden" broke out during a televised October 2021 interview with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown at the Sparks 300 in Talladega after he won the race. Instead of repeating the profanity, an NBC sports reporter relayed a milquetoast interpretation, asserting that the crowd was chanting, "Let's Go Brandon."

And so a meme was born.

"I think unfortunately it speaks to the state of where we are as a country. We do not want to associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right. We obviously have and we’ve always had, as a sport, tremendous respect for the office of the president no matter who is sitting," Phelps said in November 2021.

Since the Sparks 300, the catchphrase has been plastered on hats, banners, coffee cups, bumper stickers, and nearly any other product that can be marketed to those hungry for anti-Biden merchandise.

The push to market "Let's Go Brandon" as the hook for a cryptocurrency came from Koutoulas and his promotional partners. After the minting of 330 trillion "Let's Go Brandon"-branded coins on an Ethereum blockchain for "digital collectibles," Koutoulas promoted the coin at political events, on conservative talk shows, and in Brandon Brown's own race pit, where Koutoulas wore a white shirt with the LGB ("Let's Go Brandon") logo on it.

The campaign culminated with the courting of popular conservative figure Candace Owens, who tweeted on November 24, 2021, "Finally into crypto and ALL IN on this Let's Go Brandon coin."
The Foundation claims that it operated under the impression that the NASCAR deal was sealed in the final days of 2021. It says it painted 18 cars with the "Let's Go Brandon" logo, designed custom racing suits, and produced a professional marketing video.

After NASCAR made it clear it was not allowing "Let's Go Brandon" or the LGB abbreviation on cars, Koutoulas and his meme-coin partners were hit with a separate class-action lawsuit filed by investors who took it on the chin when the cheeky coin's value immolated.

Pending in Orlando federal court, the class action demands damages for fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, and securities-law violations, among other counts. The investors say efforts by Koutoulas and his associate, Erik Norden, in promoting the coin on political talk shows artificially propped up the coin price between November and January 2022 as buyers poured in.

NASCAR, Brown, and his racing team, Brandonbilt Motorsports, are included as defendants in the investors' class action, which is separate from the Miami case.

Since he inadvertently contributed to the birth of "Let's Go Brandon," Brown has struggled to find sponsors other than Koutoulas' meme coin. As a result, Brown said last year, he was forced to part ways with his family's team and race for other teams during the 2022 season.

The investors claim Koutoulas knew or should have known the sponsorship was a pipe dream, given that the racing association made it clear in a November 5, 2021, meeting that it would not permit any version of the Let's Go Brandon theme in official NASCAR-related deals. According to the complaint, the meeting was attended by Koutoulas and his partner in the venture, Alex Mascioli, who represented Brandonbilt Motorsports alongside Brown's father Jerry.

After the LGBcoin's value collapsed, the coin's social media account tried to dissuade investors from selling the doomed cryptocurrency, the class action alleges. The complaint claims that the coin's Twitter account posted on January 27, 2022, "Sometimes you just need to have faith and HODL" — crypto slang for "Hold On for Dear Life."

Beneath the caption was a graphic of a cartoon racecar-dashboard display saying, "Don't Panic."

Click here to read the complaint in Foundation v. NASCAR

Click here to read the complaint in Eric De Ford, Sandra Bader, et al., v. James Koutoulas, et al.
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Izzy Kapnick is the news editor at Miami New Times. He has worked as a legal news reporter in South Florida since 2008, covering environmental law, white-collar crime, and the healthcare industry.
Contact: Izzy Kapnick

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