Former CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, could be imprisoned after confessing to criminal charges in the U.S., yet his wealth impressively rose to over $37 billion.
This increase is largely attributed to the remarkable recovery of Bitcoin, which jumped more than 160% following a challenging 2022, significantly boosting Zhao’s net worth. He now tops the list of cryptocurrency entrepreneurs whose fortunes have surged this year. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index includes prominent figures such as Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron. Ranking 35th, Zhao is just under a billion dollars behind Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Uniqlo.
Zhao’s fortune is primarily derived from his substantial share in Binance. Although Binance experienced a minor drop in market share after settling with the U.S. Department of Justice, the company gained from increased trading volumes as the cryptocurrency market recovered.
Facing up to a decade in prison, Zhao’s plea agreement indicates a possible lighter sentence of no more than 18 months. This is comparatively lenient against other major figures in the crypto industry who have faced legal issues. The final duration of his sentence remains uncertain. On December 9, a Seattle judge ordered that Zhao cannot return to his home in the UAE, with his sentencing scheduled for February 23.
Despite his financial success this year, Zhao’s net worth is still below its early 2022 peak of nearly $97 billion, severely impacted by the crypto winter caused by the Terra LUNA and FTX collapses.