Binance Founder and CEO pleads guilty, steps down from company. Who is Changpeng Zhao?

Binance founder-CEO Changpeng Zhao has agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement deal in a Seattle court on November 21, including a personal payout of $50 million, to resolve the matter.

Jocelyn Fernandes (with inputs from Agencies)
Updated22 Nov 2023, 07:44 AM IST
Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao leaves federal court in Seattle, on Nov. 21, 2023, after pleading guilty to violations of U.S. anti-money laundering laws. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)
Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao leaves federal court in Seattle, on Nov. 21, 2023, after pleading guilty to violations of U.S. anti-money laundering laws. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)(Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)

Founder-CEO of Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange Changpeng Zhao, or CZ, as he is fondly known by crypto enthusiasts, has stepped down from his role after pleading guilty to breaking US anti-money laundering laws, as per a Reuters report.

Also Read: What is Binance’s connection with terrorist groups like Hamas, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad? Explained

Zhao agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement deal in a Seattle court on November 21, including a personal payout of $50 million, to resolve the matter, the news agency said quoting prosecutors in the case. They added this is among the largest corporate penalties in the United States' history.

Binance will pay out $1.81 billion within a timeline of 15 months, followed by another $2.51 billion forfeiture as part of the deal, prosecutors told Reuters.

Also Read: 'I made mistakes..,’ CEO Changpeng Zhao resigns after pleading guilty to money laundering violations, terror connections

However, while this latest development comes as another big blow for the crypto sector after FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud just earlier this month, legal experts told Reuters the deal is "a good outcome" for Zhao personally. It leaves his wealth intact and also allows him to retain his stake in Binance, they noted.

So, who is Changpeng Zhao?

A Canadian citizen, 44-year-old Zhao was born in China's Jiangsu province. His family moved to Vancouver when Zhao was 12 after his father -- a university professor, was banished to the countryside during Mao's Cultural Revolution, as per a Bloomberg report.

Young Zhao was exposed to technology and studied computer science. He has a degree in the field from McGill University. Once in the professional field, he held jobs building trading systems in New York and Tokyo, it said.

Also Read | Binance lays off over 1,000 employees, including 36 in India- Report

Zhao dipped his toes into crypto in 2013 during a friendly poker game with investor Ron Cao and BTC China CEO Bobby Lee in Shanghai, the Bloomberg report added. During the match both of Zhao's fellow players urged him to put 10 percent of his net worth into Bitcoin, he reportedly did his research and then sold his apartment for Bitcoin.

He also worked at crypto companies OKCoin and Blockchain.info before starting his own venture. Zhao founded Bitcoin in 2017 along with Chief Marketing Officer Yi He. Zhao and Yi have children together.

The company's name is a portmanteau of binary and finance, the report added. Zhao reportedly has his company's logo tattooed on his arm.

Also Read: One year after FTX imploded, here’s how crypto is changing

Binance swiftly grew into the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world and made Zhao the richest person in the sector. Over the years he has also joined in the ranks of the world's wealthiest.

As per the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index (BBI), Zhao is ranked 68th richest in the world with a wealth of $23.5 billion. 

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First Published:22 Nov 2023, 07:44 AM IST
HomeCompaniesBinance Founder and CEO pleads guilty, steps down from company. Who is Changpeng Zhao?

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