Changpeng Zhao tops list of crypto billionaires despite legal woes

Changpeng Zhao tops list of crypto billionaires despite legal woes

Former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao might face prison after admitting to criminal charges in the U.S., but his fortune remarkably increased to over $37 billion.

The bounce-back of Bitcoin, which surged over 160% after a tough 2022, played a significant role in driving his net worth. Zhao now leads the pack among cryptocurrency entrepreneurs who have seen their fortunes swell this year. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, this list includes notable names like Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. The ex-Binance CEO ranks 35th on the list, just less than a billion shy of Tadashi Yanai, the CEO of retail giant Uniqlo. 

Zhao’s wealth mainly comes from his major stake in Binance. Despite a slight dip in its market share following the U.S. Department of Justice settlement, Binance benefited from higher trading volumes as the crypto market rebounded. 

Zhao could face up to 10 years in prison, but his plea deal suggests a shorter sentence, possibly no more than 18 months. This is notably less severe than other big names in the crypto world who have faced legal troubles. The exact length of his sentence is still undecided. On Dec. 9, a judge in Seattle ruled that Zhao can’t return to his home in the UAE for now, with his sentencing set for Feb. 23.

Despite this year’s financial gain, Zhao’s net worth is still below its peak of nearly $97 billion in early 2022, which was hit hard by the crypto winter brought by the Terra LUNA and FTX collapse. 

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