Crypto

Binance-Linked Token Hits $717, Making Zhao Richest US Inmate

BNB token hits $717.48, making Zhao the wealthiest US inmate with a net worth of $38.5 billion.

By Alex P. Chase

6/10, 14:25 EDT
Bitcoin / U.S. dollar
Bitcoin / US Dollar
ethereum USD
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Key Takeaway

  • BNB token surged to a record $717.48, boosting its market cap to $109 billion, despite Binance co-founder Changpeng Zhao's incarceration.
  • Binance's total asset value rose from $80 billion in January to $125 billion, maintaining dominance after a $4.3 billion fine settlement.
  • Zhao remains the 40th richest person globally with an estimated net worth of $38.5 billion, largely denominated in BNB.

BNB Token Surges Amid Zhao's Incarceration

The BNB token, closely associated with Binance and its co-founder Changpeng Zhao, has experienced a remarkable surge, reaching a record high in the first week of Zhao's four-month jail sentence in the United States. Zhao, who reported to a California prison on Tuesday, is serving time for failing to adequately safeguard Binance against money laundering activities. Despite this, the BNB token's price climbed to a peak of $717.48 on Thursday, pushing its market capitalization to $109 billion, according to CoinGecko data. This marks a significant milestone for Zhao, who is now the wealthiest individual ever to serve time in a US federal prison.

Binance's Fortunes and BNB's Rally

The trajectory of BNB reflects the broader fortunes of Binance itself. Since the beginning of the year, the total value of assets on Binance has grown from approximately $80 billion to $125 billion, solidifying its dominance in the crypto exchange market. This growth comes despite a tumultuous period last year, which saw Binance paying a historic $4.3 billion fine to settle a case with US authorities. BNB holders benefit from trading-fee discounts on Binance and use the token to settle fees on the BNB Smart Chain, a blockchain favored by various crypto applications, including games and exchanges.

The recent rally in BNB was anticipated by derivative market trading patterns observed in late May. Spot demand began to increase in June, with buying consistently outpacing selling between June 2-5, as noted by Kaiko analyst Dessislava Aubert. BNB is traded on more than a dozen centralized exchanges, a distinction from other exchange tokens that are typically confined to their affiliated platforms. However, Binance still accounts for 85% of BNB's global trading volume, according to Aubert.

Zhao's Wealth and Market Influence

Changpeng Zhao, often referred to as "CZ," has seen his net worth grow significantly, even as he faces legal challenges. Zhao agreed to pay a $50 million personal fine to settle charges related to anti-money laundering and sanctions breaches, including allegations of failing to prevent militant groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda from accessing Binance. Despite these setbacks, Zhao's net worth is estimated at $38.5 billion, with a substantial portion likely denominated in BNB. In a 2021 interview with the Associated Press, Zhao mentioned that the majority of his wealth was in BNB and that he is a "decent sized shareholder in Binance."

Zhao's financial standing has continued to improve, with his net worth increasing by $4.1 billion in 2024, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. While Zhao has never disclosed the exact amount of BNB he owns, a 2017 whitepaper from BNB's initial coin offering (ICO) indicated that 80 million tokens, now worth about $56 billion, were allocated to the founding team. The funds raised through the ICO were instrumental in launching the Binance exchange.

Street Views

  • Dessislava Aubert, Kaiko (Bullish on BNB):

    "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."