Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao is now worth over $100 billion

8 months ago 95

Zhao's fortune could be significantly larger, as the wealth estimate doesn't take into account his personal crypto holdings

Companies | CEOs | high networth individuals

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix draws princes, movie stars and world-famous athletes every year to party on Yas Island, the entertainment hub about 30 minutes from the center of downtown.

Mingling among them last month was a figure charting an unlikely ascent: a former McDonald’s burger-flipper and software developer who, practically overnight, has vaulted into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people — cryptocurrency pioneer Changpeng Zhao.

CZ, as he’s known to cryptophiles, is quickly becoming a fixture in the United Arab Emirates, meeting with royalty in Abu Dhabi who are eager to bring his Binance exchange to the country, according to people with knowledge of the situation. He has scooped up an apartment in Dubai and hosted dinners near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and on the city’s Palm Jumeirah island — making him the most prominent personality in the nation’s booming crypto scene.

In a region known for dizzying wealth, Zhao, 44, fits right in: His net worth is $100 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. It’s the first time Bloomberg has estimated his fortune, which exceeds Asia’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, and rivals tech titans including Mark Zuckerberg and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Zhao’s fortune could be significantly larger, as the wealth estimate doesn’t take into account his personal crypto holdings, which include Bitcoin and his firm’s own token. The so-called Binance Coin surged roughly 1,300 per cent last year.

Binance’s success underscores the vast riches being created in the unshackled cryptoverse, even with recent declines, but controversy has swirled around the firm.


Banished from China — where it was founded — the company faces regulatory probes globally. The US Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service are investigating whether one entity Zhao controls, Binance Holdings, is a conduit for money laundering and tax evasion, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Spokesmen for the DOJ and IRS declined to comment.

Binance’s future may hinge on whether it can reconcile with the world’s regulators and find a welcoming location to establish its headquarters.

For now, though, the money is pouring in.

Binance generated at least $20 billion of revenue last year, according to a Bloomberg analysis of its trading volume and fees. That’s almost triple what Wall Street analysts expect Coinbase Global Inc., a publicly traded firm with a market value of $50 billion, will collect for 2021. “Coinbase might appear to be the 800-pound gorilla from a U.S. perspective, but Binance is significantly bigger,” said DA Davidson & Co. analyst Chris Brendler.

Zhao declined to comment for this story, and Binance disputed the accuracy of Bloomberg’s estimates of the firm’s market value and his net worth. “Crypto is still in its growth stage,” Binance said in a statement.

“It is susceptible to higher levels of volatility. Any number you hear one day will be different from a number you hear the next day.”

A month before watching Formula One stars Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battle it out on the Yas Marina Circuit, Zhao spoke at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, where he rattled off the numbers behind the meteoric rise of the firm he created in 2017.

In one recent 24-hour span, Binance completed $170 billion of transactions. On a really slow day, he said, it’s about $40 billion — and that’s up from as little as $10 billion two years before that. In the crypto world, these are gargantuan numbers. Binance routinely facilitates as much trading as the next four largest exchanges combined.

Bitcoin falls under $40K to a 5-month low

Bitcoin fell over 5 per cent on Monday to its lowest in over five months, tumbling under the $40,000 level. The largest cryptocurrency fell as far as $39,558, its lowest since Aug. 5. It was last down 4.7 per cent, more than 40% below a record high of $69,000 hit in November. (Reuters)

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