Who Is Changpeng Zhao?

Changpeng Zhao, known as “CZ,” is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. Zhao founded Binance in 2017 and quickly increased daily trading volume to more than $20 billion. An avid Bitcoin enthusiast, Zhao has amassed a fortune in cryptocurrency, but most of his $15 billion+ net worth is due to his holdings in Binance Holdings Ltd.

Zhao was in the news in November 2022 when rival exchange FTX faced a liquidity crisis. Zhao at first stopped all trading of FTX’s native FTT token. Then, as FTX’s troubles worsened, Zhao announced that he was in talks with FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to acquire FTX. The next day, Zhao said Binance was dropping its takeover bid after due diligence uncovered a shortfall of more than $6 billion and raised questions about FTX’s handling of customer funds. Two days later, FTX— once valued at $32 billion—filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Key Takeaways

  • Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange.
  • Zhao was born in China and emigrated to Canada in 1989.
  • Binance started in Singapore but was relocated several times due to regulations, before becoming a “headquarter-less” company.
  • Zhao has a net worth of more than $15 billion.

Julie Bang / Investopedia

Early Life and Education

Changpeng Zhao was born on Feb. 5, 1977, in the Jiangsu province of China. His father, Shengkai, emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, in 1984 to pursue a doctorate degree, and the rest of his family arrived in 1989. The Zhao family left China just after the Tiananmen Square massacre and were able to expedite securing visas.

He was first introduced to the world of computers when his father purchased an expensive $7,000 286 DOS computer. Zhao eventually enrolled in computer programming classes and graduated with a degree in computer science from McGill University.

Career and Founding of Binance

After his graduation from McGill, Zhao took on work at a contractor for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, then became the head of Tradebook Futures Development at Bloomberg Professional Services from 2001 to 2005. He eventually joined some friends to start up an information technology (IT) consulting company, and moved to Singapore to launch Fusion Systems.

Zhao also started a few more ventures, including Bijie Tech, a provider of cloud-based services to exchanges. While the business grew, China began cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges in March 2017, and Zhao contemplated launching his own crypto exchange

Binance launched in July 2017, but China banned all crypto exchanges in September 2017. Zhao was forced to relocate, but instead of simply finding another country to operate in, the company went fully remote.

Binance quickly grew to become one of the biggest crypto exchanges by daily trade volume. It now operates globally, with more than $10 billion in spot trading volume and $50 billion in derivatives trading. Zhao, a majority shareholder in Binance Holdings, has seen his net worth balloon since then, reaching a peak of nearly $100 billion at the height of the crypto bull run in 2021.

Personal Life

Zhao shares little about his personal life online, though a recent profile revealed more details about Zhao’s childhood. 

Zhao was 12 years old when he emigrated, and that was the first time he tasted fresh milk. He worked odd jobs as a teenager, including a stint at McDonald’s, and became interested in computer programming after his father bought the family a computer.

Zhao is not currently married.

What is Changpeng Zhao’s net worth?

Changpeng Zhao’s net worth is more than $15 billion, though it fluctuates with the valuation of his company, Binance. He also may have significant crypto holdings or other assets, but this information is not disclosed publicly. His net worth was once more than $65 billion at the height of the crypto market craze of 2021, but the subsequent market crash in 2022 lowered his net worth significantly.

Did Binance buy FTX?

On Nov. 8, 2022, Binance signed a nonbinding letter of intent (LOI) to purchase FTX, according to Zhao’s announcement on Twitter. After a day of due diligence, the deal was called off, and Binance did not end up purchasing FTX. FTX later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

What is Changpeng Zhao’s Twitter account?

Changpeng Zhao shares his thoughts on his popular Twitter account; his handle is @cz_binance.

The Bottom Line

Binance is a crypto powerhouse, and Zhao is an industry leader. With other large crypto exchanges folding, Binance maintains the top spot as the no. 1 crypto exchange in the world. Zhao’s companies are not without controversy, and the continuous evolution of cryptocurrency regulation may present new challenges. Zhao may be the one crypto executive who can help usher in the next phase of crypto legitimacy as regulatory oversight increases.

Article Sources
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  1. South China Morning Post, Style. “How China’s Crypto King Went from McDonald’s to Billionaire: Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao Worked as Fast Food Cook—Today He’s One of the Richest People in the World with a Net Worth of US$30 Billion.”

  2. LinkedIn. “Changpeng Zhao.”

  3. Maclean’s. “Who Is Changpeng Zhao, Canada’s Crypto King?

  4. Forbes. “The Wealthiest Person in Crypto Climbs into World’s 20 Richest.”

  5. Twitter. “@cz_binance, 11:09 a.m., Nov. 8, 2022.”

  6. Natalie Brunell, via YouTube. “Who Is Willy Woo? Get to Know Bitcoin’s Biggest Voices and Learn More About Bitcoin Metrics.”