Changpeng Zhao

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Changpeng Zhao
Zhao speaking at the 2022 NFT Summit
Born (1977-02-05) February 5, 1977 (age 47)
NationalityCanadian, UAE
Other namesCZ
Alma materMcGill University (BSc.)
  • Businessman
  • investor
  • software engineer
Known forCo-founder and former CEO of Binance
Changpeng Zhao
Traditional Chinese趙長鵬
Simplified Chinese赵长鹏

Changpeng Zhao (Chinese: 赵长鹏; pinyin: Zhào Chángpéng), commonly known as CZ, is a Chinese-born Canadian businessman. Zhao is the co-founder and former CEO of Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume as of November 2023.[2] He resigned as the CEO in November 2023 after pleading guilty to a money laundering charge in the United States.[3]

According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Zhao was ranked the 69th-richest person in the world, and richest Canadian overall, with a net worth estimated at $23 billion as of November 2023.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Zhao was born in Lianyungang in China's Jiangsu province.[1] In the late 1980s, when he was 12 years old, he immigrated with his family to Canada, settling down in Vancouver, British Columbia. His parents were both schoolteachers in China.[6] His father worked as a university instructor before he was branded a "pro-bourgeois intellect" and exiled to rural areas shortly after Zhao's birth.[7] During his teenage years in Canada, Zhao helped to support his family by holding down a number of service jobs, including working as a fast-food clerk at a McDonald's restaurant and a gas station.[8][9]

Zhao attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where he majored in computer science.[8]

Early career[edit]

After graduating from McGill, Zhao was selected for an internship in Tokyo working for a subcontractor of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, developing software for matching trade orders. He later went to work full-time for four years at Bloomberg Tradebook where he was a developer of futures trading software.[8]

Business career[edit]

In 2005, Zhao moved to Shanghai to launch his business career, where he established his first technology startup company called Fusion Systems,[10] which was known for "some of the fastest automated high-frequency trading platforms and systems for stockbrokers."[8] Zhao first heard of Bitcoin in 2013 when playing poker with Bobby Lee (brother of Charlie Lee) who would later go on to found BTCC (company). Lee advised Zhao to put 10% of his money into bitcoin. Zhao instead "went all in" and sold his apartment in Shanghai and invested all of his wealth in Bitcoin, much to his family's dismay.[9]

In 2013, Zhao was a member of the team that developed and he also served as Chief Technology Officer of OKCoin.[8]

In 2022, Zhao invested $500 million through Binance to finance the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk.[11]


After its launch in July 2017, the Binance cryptocurrency exchange was able to raise $15 million in an initial coin offering, and trading began on the exchange eleven days later.[12] In less than eight months, Zhao grew Binance into the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume (as of April 2018).[13][12] Zhao also launched Binance Coin in 2017; this is a utility token that gives its owners various benefits, such as discounts on trading fees.[14] In April 2019, Binance launched Binance Smart Chain, which has smart contract functionality and is an Ethereum competitor.

In February 2018, Forbes placed him third on their list of "The Richest People In Cryptocurrency," with an estimated net worth of $1.1-2 billion.[13][15]

In 2019, Zhao launched Binance's U.S. affiliate, Binance.US.[16] Binance withdrew its application to run a Singapore-based crypto exchange in 2021.[17]

Legal troubles[edit]

Civil lawsuits[edit]

On 27 March 2023, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a lawsuit against Binance and Zhao in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, claiming willful evasion of US law and allegedly breaching derivatives rules.[18][19] The agency accused Binance of breaking rules intended to thwart money laundering operations,[20] pointing to internal communications describing transactions by Palestinian militant organization Hamas, and suspected criminals.[18]

In June 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Zhao and Binance on 13 charges for alleged violations of US securities rules.[21][22][23]

Criminal prosecution[edit]

In November 2023, Zhao agreed to resign from Binance and pay a $50 million fine as part of a guilty plea to U.S. federal charges. Binance also agreed to plead guilty, and to pay $4.3 billion in fines.[3][24] Zhao was replaced as CEO by Richard Teng.[25]

Zhao personally pled guilty to violating the American Bank Secrecy Act by prioritizing Binance's growth over compliance with FinCEN anti-money laundering requirements.[26] Although Zhao only personally pled guilty to a single criminal charge, as part of plea bargain negotiations, Zhao agreed for Binance to also admit to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Of Chinese descent, Zhao is a Canadian and UAE citizen.[27][28] Born in China in 1977, Zhao acquired a Canadian visa in 1989 and left China that same year after the events of Tiananmen Square.[29] In 2022, Zhao said that he had acquired Canadian citizenship some 30 years before, around 1992.[30] In 2005, he moved back to China,[27] eventually owning an apartment in Shanghai.[31] In 2015, he sold his Shanghai apartment and used the funds to purchase Bitcoin.[32] Zhao stayed in China until the Chinese government banned crypto exchanges in late 2017.[29] He is currently based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.[17]

Zhao has said he plans to donate up to 99% of his wealth, following the philanthropic examples of other global business magnates and investors such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. "I intend to donate most of my wealth, as many other entrepreneurs or founders have done, from Peabody to today. I intend to donate 90%, 95%, or 99% of my wealth."[33]

According to a Reuters investigative story about Binance, Zhao had a romantic relationship with former Chinese travel television show host and Binance co-founder Yi He for "several years."[34] They have two children,[1] including a son born in the United States.[35] Reuters reported that Zhao has a total of 3 children.[28]

Political views[edit]

With regards to his political beliefs, Zhao stated in 2021 in Singapore: "I am not a complete libertarian, I'm not an anarchist... I don't believe human civilization is advanced enough to live in a world with no rules."[9]

Views on cryptocurrency[edit]

In an interview with The New York Times, Zhao said people are getting into crypto as they see it grow, "trade it and make money off it as opposed to using it," but that the market will always self-correct.[36] On April 6, 2021, Zhao told Bloomberg Markets that nearly 100% of his liquid net worth was in the form of cryptocurrency.[37]


  1. ^ a b c Gottsegen, Will (2023-06-03). "Crypto's Richest Man Is Waiting Out the Chaos". Rolling Stone.
  2. ^ Sigalos, MacKenzie; Browne, Ryan (November 22, 2023). "Binance users pull more than $1 billion from the exchange after CEO leaves, pleads guilty". CNBC. Retrieved December 5, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c Michaels, Dave; Kowsmann, Patricia; Salama, Vivian (21 November 2023). "WSJ News Exclusive | Binance Founder Changpeng Zhao Agrees to Step Down, Plead Guilty". WSJ.
  4. ^ "Bloomberg Billionaires Index: Changpeng Zhao". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved November 22, 2023.
  5. ^ "World's Biggest Crypto Fortune Began With a Friendly Poker Game". Bloomberg L.P. 9 January 2022. Archived from the original on 2022-01-09. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  6. ^ "Who is Changpeng Zhao (CZ), the Founder of Binance?". 21 September 2023. Retrieved 21 September 2023.
  7. ^ "赵长鹏与币安的崛起". 知乎专栏 (in Chinese). Retrieved 2021-11-09.
  8. ^ a b c d e Ambler, Pamela (February 28, 2018). "From Zero To Crypto Billionaire In Under A Year: Meet The Founder Of Binance". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-08.
  9. ^ a b c Gura, David (August 13, 2023). "The future of crypto hinges on a fight between the SEC and a former burger flipper". NPR. Retrieved 2023-08-13.
  10. ^ Russell, Jon (2018-05-04). "Catch Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao at TechCrunch's blockchain event on July 6". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  11. ^ "Crypto CEO says Elon Musk has no plan for Twitter, and reveals why he wrote him a $500 million 'blank check'". Business Insider.
  12. ^ a b Lee, Justina; Nakamura, Yuji; Robertson, Benjamin (2018-03-28). "How a Billionaire Crypto King Built the No. 1 Exchange in Just 8 Months". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  13. ^ a b Cao, Sissi (2018-04-03). "Despite Bitcoin Bubble Popping, Crypto Exchanges Are Making Billionaires Richer". Observer. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  14. ^ "Fee Structure on Binance". Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  15. ^ Ambler, Pamela; Au-Yeung, Angel; Chung, Grace; Kauflin, Jeff; Konrad, Alex; Shin, Laura; Vardi, Nathan (February 6, 2018). "The Richest People In Cryptocurrency". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-08.
  16. ^ "Our US Partner, Binance.US, Opens for Registration and Deposits | Binance". Retrieved 2022-07-11.
  17. ^ a b "Profile – Changpeng Zhao". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2022-11-26. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  18. ^ a b "Binance and Its CEO Sued by CFTC Over US Regulatory Violations". Bloomberg News. 27 March 2023. Retrieved 27 March 2023.(subscription required)
  19. ^ Milmo, Dan (27 March 2023). "US regulator sues crypto exchange Binance and boss Changpeng Zhao". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2023.
  20. ^ "Binance accused of breaking US financial laws". BBC News. 27 March 2023. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  21. ^ "SEC Sues Binance and CEO Zhao for Breaking US Securities Rules". Bloomberg News. 5 June 2023. Archived from the original on 5 June 2023. Retrieved 5 June 2023.(subscription required)
  22. ^ Goldstein, Matthew; Flitter, Emily; Yaffe-Bellany, David (5 June 2023). "S.E.C. Accuses Binance of Mishandling Funds and Lying to Regulators". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 June 2023. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  23. ^ Michaels, Dave; Ostroff, Caitlin; Kowsmann, Patricia (5 June 2023). "SEC Sues Crypto Exchange Binance". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 5 June 2023. Retrieved 5 June 2023 – via MSN News.
  24. ^ Helmore, Edward (November 21, 2023). "Crypto giant Binance admits to money laundering and agrees to pay $4.3bn". The Guardian. Retrieved November 21, 2023.
  25. ^ Clayton, James (2023-11-21). "Binance chief Changpeng Zhao pleads guilty to money laundering charges". BBC.
  26. ^ Kim, Crystal (November 23, 2023). "Binance CEO "CZ" steps down, pleads guilty to U.S. money laundering violations". Axios.
  27. ^ a b "How China's crypto king went from McDonald's to billionaire". South China Morning Post. 2022-10-29. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  28. ^ a b Raymond, Nate (2023-11-24). "Ex-Binance CEO Zhao urges judge to allow him to leave US before sentencing". Reuters. Retrieved 2023-11-26.
  29. ^ a b "Who Is Changpeng Zhao? – Forbes Advisor". Retrieved 2023-01-09.
  30. ^ "'Binance isn't a Chinese firm. Have to repeat it cause I look Chinese': CEO Changpeng Zhao". Moneycontrol. 24 November 2022. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  31. ^ Gomes, Ezequiel (2021-06-04). "CZ, CEO of Binance, sold his house and bought Bitcoin in 2014". Criptoeconomia. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  32. ^ Zhao, Changpeng. "I wish I could tell you my lame story from 2015, when the btc price "crashed" to below $200, and I just sold my house and bought in at $600 a few months earlier..." Twitter. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  33. ^ Shoes, Eloisa (2021-11-17). "Bilionário da Binance vai doar quase todo seu dinheiro". Investidores Brasil - Juntos Podemos Mais (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2021-11-21.
  34. ^ Muyao Shen; Justina Lee (28 June 2023). "Crypto's Most Powerful Woman Speaks Out as Crisis Rocks Binance". Bloomberg News. Wikidata Q120053402. Retrieved 2023-06-28.
  35. ^ Wilson, Tom; Berwick, Angus (2022-10-17). "How Binance CEO and aides plotted to dodge regulators in U.S. and UK". Reuters.
  36. ^ Lipton, Eric; Livni, Ephrat (2021-07-23). "'I Feel Conflicted': Crypto's Offshore Trading Moguls Talk Shop". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2021-11-25. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  37. ^ Kharif, Olga (6 April 2021). "Binance CEO Goes All-in on Tokens: 'I Just Want to Keep Crypto'". Bloomberg Markets. Retrieved 1 September 2021.