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Crypto CEO Becomes One Of The Richest Billionaires

Story Highlights
  • A cryptocurrency CEO has become the richest people on Earth with net worth of at least $96 billion.
  • CZ intends to give away most of his wealth. - Binance spokesperson
  • During a game of poker in 2013 he decided to go all-in on crypto by dedicating his life to it.

New York: A former McDonald’s burger flipper and software developer has practically overnight vaulted into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people – cryptocurrency pioneer Zhao Changpeng. CZ, as he is known to cryptophytes. In a region known for dizzying wealth, Mr Zhao, 44, fits right in: His net worth is US$96 billion (S$130 billion), which exceeds that of Asia’s richest person, Mr Mukesh Ambani, and tech titans such as Mr Mark Zuckerberg and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Mr Zhao’s fortune could be significantly larger as the wealth estimate does not take into account his personal crypto holdings, which include Bitcoin and his firm’s own token.

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 US$20 billion of revenue last year. That is almost triple what Wall Street analysts expect Coinbase Global, a publicly traded firm with a market value of US$50 billion, will collect for 2021. “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.” On a really slow day, he said, it is about US$40 billion – and that is up from as little as US$10 billion two years before that.

Crypto fortunes, however, are volatile. Bitcoin has slumped more than 8 per cent this year to about US$42,400 and is well below early November’s highs of nearly US$69,000. Exposed to technology at a young age, Mr Zhao later studied computer science and eventually landed finance jobs in Tokyo and New York. His road to crypto riches began in Shanghai in 2013 during a friendly poker game with Mr Bobby Lee, then chief executive of BTC China, and investor Ron Cao, who both encouraged him to put 10 per cent of his net worth into Bitcoin. After spending some time studying it, he took the plunge and ended up selling his apartment for Bitcoin.

In 2017, he founded Binance (a portmanteau of binary and finance) and it quickly blossomed into a crypto powerhouse. Mr Zhao even got the company’s logo tattooed on his arm. Binance has become the top destination for trading “alternative coins” cryptocurrencies that are less liquid than more established tokens such as Bitcoin and Ethereum and have become some of the most speculative corners of the market.

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