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The Richest People in Crypto: 2024 Edition

source-logo  decrypt.co 02 April 2024 14:06, UTC

Perhaps no sector contributes more colorful characters to the global elite than crypto. In the last decade, the digital assets industry has made zillionaires out of geeks, thieves, corporate suits, and shadowy, anonymous internet users in almost equal measure.

Take, for instance, the anonymous hacker who stole more than $2 million worth of BTC and ETH from now-shuttered Hong Kong crypto exchange Gatecoin in 2016. The Gatecoin hacker hasn’t touched his coins since absconding with the funds eight years ago. The loot’s value today is a whopping $542 million—and counting.

Then there’s Rain Lohmus, the Estonian businessman who shelled out a paltry $75,000 during Ethereum’s 2014 presale for 250,000 ETH. Lohmus is now the world’s largest individual ETH holder—with just one hitch: he lost the private keys to his Ethereum wallet years ago. Lohmus’ crypto holdings—which he will likely never be able to access—are currently worth about $869 million.

Even those lofty fortunes, however, don’t make the final cut of crypto’s richest people in 2024. Not even close.

Below is a list Decrypt has compiled of people in the crypto industry (and anonymous wallets believed to be held by individuals) with the largest fortunes as of today. The list was determined by referencing on-chain data analyzed by intelligence firms Arkham and Nansen, data compiled by Forbes and Bloomberg, and publicly available information.

The list looks much different than it did two years ago—back when NFTs were the hot new thing and the first word most people associated with FTX was “basketball.”

For instance, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, crypto’s second-richest man in 2022, would still be leading the list had he not received a 25-year federal prison sentence for fraud and conspiracy last week. He was ordered by the court to forfeit $11 billion.

Many other crypto elites lost their billionaire status during the last bear market. Digital Currency Group (DCG) founder Barry Silbert, for instance—worth over $3 billion in 2022, per Bloomberg—has subsequently seen a massive blow to his net worth after becoming personally entangled in multi-billion dollar lawsuits from both the New York Attorney General and former business partners Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The majority of Silbert’s net worth came from his 40% stake in DCG, which is now, given debts and legal concerns, at risk.

Song Chi-hyung and Kim Hyoung-nyon, co-founders of South Korean crypto giant Dunamu, were worth $3.7 billion and $1.9 billion respectively in 2022, given their shares in the company. But over the course of 2023, Dunamu’s profits shriveled by more than 80%, knocking both men out of crypto’s uber-elite.

Some falls from billionaire status have more to do with methodology than bad luck. Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin, for example, was once estimated to have controlled a crypto fortune worth nearly $5 billion. Almost all of that estimate, however, stemmed from rumors that Lubin held a substantial percentage of all ETH in circulation.

At Consensus 2022, however, Lubin said that he has never owned “even close to even half a percent” of ETH’s circulating supply. Given Ethereum’s history—and assuming Lubin was telling the truth—that means the crypto founder has never owned close to $1 billion worth of ETH. Plus, he apparently used a substantial portion of his ETH fortune to fund ConsenSys, the blockchain project incubator he founded in 2014. (Decrypt spun out from ConsenSys in 2022.)

Perhaps surprisingly, even the most recognizable face in crypto—Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin—isn’t rich enough to make it into the industry’s top echelon. Of course, he probably would have had he not been so damned kind: Vitalik donated nearly $1.5 billion in ETH and Shiba Inu to COVID-clobbered India in 2021.

Buterin currently holds about $863 million worth of crypto, overwhelmingly in ETH. He also owns an undisclosed amount of Ethereum software firm Starkware—though not enough to get him over the $2 billion hump (the cut-off on this year’s richest list).

Without further ado, here are the wealthiest players in the crypto industry, ranked by the amount of wealth they’ve accumulated exclusively from crypto and stakes in crypto companies.

1) Satoshi Nakamoto ($76.67 billion)

Crypto’s king of kings. Bitcoin’s ever-elusive, anonymous founder owns some 1.1 million BTC—and has never touched them.

2) Changpeng Zhao ($47.7 billion)

Binance’s founder reportedly owns a dominant 90% of his crypto exchange, the largest in the world. Even after settling a $4.3 billion lawsuit with the U.S. government in the fall and pleading guilty to money laundering, he remains the richest (identified) person in crypto.

3) Brian Armstrong ($11.5 billion)

Coinbase founder Brian Armstrong owns roughly 16% of the American crypto exchange, which has quadrupled in value over the last year.

4) Anonymous Bitcoin Whale #1 ($6.59 billion)

Little is known about this crypto wallet, which analysts believe does not belong to any crypto company or government—making this whale the largest anonymous Bitcoin holder besides Satoshi. After five years of dormancy, it began moving billions of dollars worth of BTC last week.

5) The Mt. Gox Hackers ($5.57 billion)

The bombshell 2011 hack of early Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox rocked the crypto world. Thieves made away with hundreds of thousands of BTC, now worth tens of billions of dollars. Much of the funds were stored in a wallet that’s remained dormant ever since. Last summer, federal prosecutors charged two Russian men for the exploit.

6) Michael Saylor ($5 billion)

One of Bitcoin’s most publicly die-hard advocates, Saylor founded MicroStrategy, which owns more than $13 billion worth of BTC. In addition to owning about 12% of MicroStrategy, Saylor claims to personally own over $1.2 billion worth of BTC.

7) Anonymous Bitcoin Whale #2 ($4.13 billion)

This major, anonymous holder of Bitcoin controls .31% of all BTC in circulation. The whale first surfaced in October 2021, and was active as recently as January.

8) Anonymous Bitcoin Whale #3 ($3.76 billion)

The next biggest Bitcoin whale has not completed a single transaction since receiving 53,880 BTC in the spring of 2014.

9) Anonymous Bitcoin Whale #4 ($3.73 billion)

In September 2022, this crypto wallet received over 54,000 BTC from Bitfinex. It completed several transactions into 2023 before going quiet.

10) Anonymous Bitcoin Whale #5 ($3.6 billion)

In 2018, this Bitcoin whale received over 51,000 BTC in multiple transactions—.27% of all Bitcoin in circulation. Since then, it hasn’t made a peep.

11) Fred Ehrsam ($3.2 billion)

The Coinbase co-founder has since moved on to Paradigm, a crypto investment firm he also helped start. Most of his wealth comes from the 6% of Coinbase he still owns.

12) Chris Larsen ($3.2 billion)

Larsen co-founded Ripple, the crypto company behind the XRP token. After enduring a brutal lawsuit from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding XRP, Larsen saw a SEC suit against him as an individual dropped in the fall. The landmark case against Ripple continues—but signs look encouraging for the company.

13) Matthew Roszak ($3.1 billion)

Roszak is co-founder and chairman of Bloq, a startup that consults clients like traditional banks on how to store digital assets.

14) Anonymous Bitcoin Whale #6 ($3.07 billion)

The last Bitcoin whale on the list received 44,000 BTC in late 2019—and has been inactive ever since.

15) Jed McCaleb ($2.9 billion)

McCaleb has a storied history in crypto, having founded the seminal Mt. Gox exchange in 2010. He then went on to co-found Ripple Labs before launching Ripple competitor Stellar shortly thereafter. Most of his wealth comes from XRP he accumulated while at Ripple.

16) Cameron Winklevoss ($2.7 billion)

The man who—along with his identical twin Tyler (below)—once accused Mark Zuckerberg of stealing the idea for Facebook has found a second act in life as a crypto evangelist. The Winklevii co-founded crypto exchange Gemini, which became ensnared in the bankruptcy of Genesis, a crypto lending company, after the crypto market plummeted in 2022. Crucially (for lists such as these), the two brothers also own an estimated 70,000 BTC—enough to make them both multi-billionaires in their own rights.

17) Tyler Winklevoss ($2.7 billion)

See above.

18) Tim Draper ($2 billion)

Hailing from the more traditional world of Silicon Valley venture capital, Draper bought almost 30,000 BTC seized from dark web marketplace Silk Road at a U.S. government fire sale in 2014—for roughly $630 a coin.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.