BNB Token Surge Makes Binance’s Changpeng Zhao Even Richer in Prison

Changpeng Zhao in prison holding a BNB token, with a rising graph indicating the token's surge.

The BNB token, a cryptocurrency linked to Binance and its co-founder Changpeng Zhao, surged to a record high during the first week of his four-month jail sentence in the US. This rally underscores Zhao’s status as the richest person ever to serve time in a US federal prison.

Key Takeaways

  • BNB token surged to a record high of $717.48.
  • Changpeng Zhao began a four-month prison sentence for failing to safeguard Binance against money laundering.
  • Binance’s total asset value increased from $80 billion to $125 billion since January.
  • Zhao’s net worth is estimated at $38.5 billion.

BNB Token’s Meteoric Rise

The price of BNB climbed to a peak of $717.48, lifting its market capitalization to $109 billion, according to data from CoinGecko. The token has more than doubled in price since the start of the year. This surge reflects the fortunes of Binance itself, with the total value of assets on the exchange swelling from around $80 billion in early January to $125 billion today.

Binance’s Dominance

Despite a precarious period last year that culminated in the company paying a historic $4.3 billion fine to settle a case with US authorities, Binance has cemented its dominance in the crypto market. Holders of BNB get trading-fee discounts on Binance, and the token is also used to settle fees on BNB Smart Chain, a blockchain popular with crypto apps, including games and exchanges.

Market Dynamics

BNB’s recent rally was foreshadowed in derivative market trading patterns from late May, with spot demand starting to pick up in June. Buying consistently outpaced selling between June 2-5, according to Kaiko analyst Dessislava Aubert. BNB trades on more than a dozen centralized exchanges, which differs from other exchange tokens that are almost exclusively traded on their affiliated platforms. Binance still accounts for 85% of BNB volume globally.

Legal Troubles and Financial Penalties

Binance had been accused of anti-money laundering and sanctions breaches, including failing to prevent Hamas, Al Qaeda, and other militant groups from accessing the exchange. Zhao also agreed to pay a $50 million personal fine to settle the charges. This fine is a drop in the bucket of Zhao’s net worth, which is estimated to stand at $38.5 billion. Zhao said in a 2021 interview that the majority of his net worth was denominated in BNB, adding that he is a “decent-sized shareholder in Binance.”

Zhao’s Wealth and Influence

The man known as “CZ” is currently ranked as the 40th richest person in the world and has seen his net worth grow by $4.1 billion in 2024, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. While Zhao has never disclosed exactly how much BNB he owns, a 2017 whitepaper from BNB’s initial coin offering (ICO) shows that 80 million tokens, today worth about $56 billion, were allocated to the founding team. The money raised through that ICO was used to launch the Binance exchange.

Sources

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