The Man Facing Prison Who Added $25 Billion to His Crypto Empire

Despite facing potential jail time, crypto kingpin Changpeng Zhao saw his wealth balloon in 2023, while the year proved less kind to convicted fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried.

Zhao, the co-founder of the world’s biggest crypto exchange Binance, saw his estimated net worth surge by a staggering $25 billion to $37 billion this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. This windfall comes despite Binance agreeing to pay US authorities a $4.3 billion fine for anti-money laundering and sanctions violations. Zhao, who stepped down as CEO but retains control of the exchange, also faces up to 10 years in prison, though a plea deal is expected to reduce that sentence significantly.

The crypto market’s rebound in 2023, fueled by optimism about Bitcoin ETFs and the Binance settlement, was a major factor in Zhao’s fortune surge. Other crypto bigwigs also enjoyed a stellar year, with Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s wealth rising by $5.8 billion and Gemini co-founders Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss each adding $1.4 billion to their net worths.

In stark contrast, Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of FTX who was convicted of a massive crypto fraud scheme, saw his net worth plummet to zero. His fortune, which peaked at $25.9 billion in March 2023, has evaporated following the collapse of FTX and Bankman-Fried’s subsequent arrest.

Winners and Losers in the Crypto Rollercoaster

Zhao’s story exemplifies the volatile nature of the crypto world, where fortunes can be made and lost overnight. His wealth increase, despite legal troubles, highlights the resilience of major players in the industry and the potential for significant gains during market upswings. Bankman-Fried’s downfall, on the other hand, serves as a stark reminder of the risks associated with crypto and the potential consequences of illegal activity.

As the crypto market continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how these contrasting fortunes play out in the years to come. Will Zhao maintain his reign as a crypto king, or will the specter of prison and regulatory scrutiny eventually catch up to him? And will Bankman-Fried’s fall serve as a deterrent to others tempted to engage in fraudulent activity in the crypto space? Only time will tell.


  • Changpeng Zhao’s wealth soared by $25 billion in 2023 despite legal troubles.
  • The crypto market rebound and Binance settlement fueled Zhao’s fortune growth.
  • Other crypto bigwigs, like Coinbase’s Brian Armstrong and Gemini’s Winklevoss twins, also saw their wealth increase.
  • Sam Bankman-Fried’s net worth plunged to zero after his crypto fraud conviction.
  • Zhao’s story highlights the resilience of major players in the crypto industry.
  • Bankman-Fried’s downfall serves as a reminder of the risks and consequences of crypto fraud.