The growth in Zhao’s wealth, who goes by his initials CZ, is more than five times greater than the $4.3 billion in fines imposed by Binance. agreed to pay the US authorities.
His fortune, currently estimated at more than US$37 billion, stems from his majority stake in Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, which he founded. Although Binance has lost some of its market share this year, the exchange has benefited from increases in the trading volumes that accompanied the rally in crypto markets.
Zhao, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, also owns some Bitcoin and Binance’s own coin, BNB, aalthough those holdings are not included in the Billionaires Index.
In November, he and Binance pleaded guilty to anti-money laundering and violations of US sanctions under a broad agreement with the US. which allows the crypto exchange to continue operating. Zhao also agreed to personally pay a $50 million fine under the deal that required him to resign as CEO but allows him to retain his ownership stake in the exchange.
Zhao faces up to 10 years in prison, but is expected to receive no more than 18 months under a plea deal that appears to have spared him from the harsh sentences other prominent crypto criminals have faced. The Justice Department has not yet revealed what length of term it will seek.
In late November, a federal judge in Seattle ruled that Zhao cannot return to his home in the United Arab Emirates for now. Zhao’s sentencing is scheduled for February 23.
Zhao’s wealth is still a long way from its peak of nearly $97 billion in early 2022, and is even below its peak so far this year. of $50.4 billion in July, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Zhao is not the only billionaire to benefit from the cryptocurrency rally in 2023, which was fueled in part by the Binance deal that wiped out a glut from the market, ayes as well as by optimism that the United States will finally approve the exchange-traded funds that invest. directly into Bitcoin.
Other big cryptocurrency winners in 2023:
- Coinbase Global CEO Brian Armstrong’s wealth has increased by $5.8 billion year to date, to $7.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Coinbase shares are up nearly 400% so far this year, and Armstrong is estimated to own about 16% of the company.
- Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam’s estimated wealth increased by $1.8 billion in 2023 to a total of around $2.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is estimated to own around 5% of Coinbase. The SEC sued Coinbase in June for operating as an unregistered exchange, broker, and clearing agency. Coinbase is fighting the case in court.
- Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who co-founded the Gemini Trust crypto exchange and have amassed millions of Bitcoin, have seen their wealth rise by $1.4 billion this year to $2.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Gemini has been locked in a months-long battle with cryptocurrency lender Genesis and its parent company Digital Currency Group over a joint cryptocurrency lending program. The SEC has alleged that the so-called Earn program represented an unregistered offer and sale of securities. Tyler Winklevoss described the lawsuit as a “fabricated parking ticket.” The New York Attorney General sued Gemini and DCG for allegedly defrauding clients of $1.1 billion. DCG said it will fight the state’s allegations, while Gemini said it disagreed with the AG’s decision to sue the exchange.