For the crypto world, 2022 has been tumultuous and eventful with multiple high-profile bankruptcies, a record number of frauds and scams.
In early 2022, the Russia-Ukraine war brought the crypto community together and proved their solidarity as people around the world used crypto to donate and provide aid to Ukraine. Then the collapse of Terra-Luna shook the community as prices fell and the market firmed up. Amidst the shock of the Terra-Luna fiasco, a series of bankruptcies followed, starting with Three Arrows Capital (3AC), Voyager Digital and Celsius.
Bankruptcies aside, several crypto businesses, especially lenders, have struggled with liquidity following the collapse of 3AC. At the time, FTX and its then CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) emerged as a ‘knight in shining armour’ when he extended funding to companies facing liquidity problems.
SBF continued to move among elite political circles in Washington — as the second largest donor to US President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign — lobbying for crypto regulation. A few months later, on November 11, FTX declared bankruptcy, and revelations about mismanagement of client funds led to SBF’s arrest in the Bahamas and extradition to the US on December 21.
With the rollercoaster ride of the crypto market, the prices of all major cryptocurrencies remained well below their all-time highs in 2021. About $2 trillion eroded the market capitalization of cryptocurrencies during the year.
While seemingly well-functioning companies like Celsius and FTX collapsed overnight, mainstream crypto investors collectively lost tens of billions in 2022.
According to Forbes estimates, the 17 richest cryptocurrency founders, investors, and advocates have collectively lost $116 billion in personal wealth as of March 2022. While 15 of those crypto moguls lost more than half of their wealth, 10 lost their billionaire status, and 3 lost their entire property wealth.
1. Changpeng Zhao
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ), the richest crypto personality, has seen the sharpest drop in personal wealth in the last 9 months. From $65 billion in March, CZ’s net worth fell 93.07% to $4.5 billion in December.
2. Samuel Bankman-Fried
SBF, who was the second richest crypto mogul with a net worth of $24 billion in March, is estimated to have lost 100% of his fortune. SBF is currently under house arrest awaiting trial on multiple counts of fraud.
3. Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, saw his net worth drop from $6 billion in March to $1.5 billion in December – a 75% drop. After FTX’s collapse, Armstrong said he was trying to follow the ‘hard path’ of a ‘regulated, trusted approach’, unlike Binance. However, with Coinbase shares down 64% since August and over 95% since its $100 billion IPO, most of Armstrong’s fortune has been wiped out.
4. Gary Wang
Like SBF, Gary Wang, co-founder and former chief technology officer (CTO) of FTX, has also seen his entire net worth of $5.9 billion wiped out since March. Wang, along with Caroline Ellison, the former executive director of Alameda Research, pleaded guilty to criminal charges, according to statement by the Southern District of New York on December 21. Both Wang and Ellison are cooperating in the case against SBF.
5. Chris Larsen
Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen, the fifth richest crypto person, lost 51% of his personal wealth. From $4.3 billion in March, Larsen’s net worth dropped to $1.2 billion in December.
6 & 7. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss
The Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, who each had a net worth of $4 billion in March, have increased their wealth by 72.5% over the past three quarters. As of December, the co-founders of crypto exchange Gemini have a net worth of $1.1 billion each, according to Forbes estimates.
Regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), Gemini has touted itself as a safe and regulated exchange compared to unregulated out-of-state counterparts. However, on November 16, five days after FTX and Alameda Research filed for bankruptcy, Gemini announced that its lending partner Genesis Global Capital was halting withdrawals.
Gemini promised its users ‘real returns’ through Gemini Earn by lending tokens to Genesis Global Capital. With withdrawals halted, Gemini customers owe $900 million, according to a Financial Times report. While some Gemini users are trying to put their faith in the Winklevoss twins’ reputation, others are considering launching a class action lawsuit, according to a Bloomberg report.
8. Barry Silbert
Barry Silbert is the CEO of crypto conglomerate Digital Currency Group (DCG), the parent company of Genesis. Silbert’s net worth, which was $3.2 billion in March, has fallen to zero, according to Forbes estimates.
Genesis Global Capital, a key arm of DCG, owes at least $1.8 billion to creditors, including $900 million to Gemini Earn customers, according to a Reuters report. Genesis had a $1.1 billion liability from a loan made to now-defunct hedge fund 3AC, which was absorbed by parent DCG. Additionally, DCG owes $575 million to Genesis through May 2023 and $350 million to investment firm Elridge in the event Genesis collapses, according to a Financial Times report.
DCG has about 200 investments in crypto companies and tokens, including crypto news portal CoinDesk, bitcoin mining company Foundry and Grayscale Investments. According to Forbes estimates, DCG’s outstanding liabilities exceed the fair market value of its assets. Therefore, Forbes estimates put the value of Silbert’s 40% stake in DCG at zero. However, it should be noted that Forbes was unable to determine Silbert’s personal investments for the calculation.
9. Jed McCaleb
Ripple co-founder Jed McCaleb has kept most of his personal wealth among the 17 listed crypto moguls. This is because McCaleb sold almost all of his XRP holdings, worth around $2.5 billion, between December 2020 and July 2022, in accordance with his separation agreement with Ripple. This allowed McCaleb to exit the market before the crypto winter intensified. McCaleb’s net worth rose from $2.5 billion in March to $2.4 billion in December, according to Forbes estimates.
10 & 11. Nikil Viswanathan and Joseph Lau
Web 3.0 development platform co-founders Nikil Viswanathan and Joseph Lau lost their billionaire status in March. Forbes estimates the current value of Viswanathan and Lau’s personal wealth at $600 million each, down from $2.4 billion in March.
Forbes’ estimates of Viswanathan and Lau’s net worth are based on a reduction in their stakes in Alchemy, which was valued at $10.2 billion in a February 2022 fundraising round.
12 & 13. Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah
The co-founders of leading non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace OpenSea, Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah, have also left the billionaire club. As NFT trading volumes collapsed, Finzer and Atallahh’s net worth decreased by 72.72% from $2.4 billion to $600 million each.
14. Fred Ehrsam
Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam’s company Paradigm has invested $278 million in FTX capital. Paradigm co-founder Matt Huang said the company ‘regrets’ investing in a founder and company that has caused ‘enormous damage to the ecosystem.’
Huang added that Paradigm’s investment in FTX was a ‘small part’ of its total assets. He also clarified that Paradigm had no exposure to the FTT token FTX and had no assets on FTX.
Ehrsam has been silent on the FTX investment. However, with the drop in Coinbase’s stock price, Ehrsam’s personal wealth has shrunk from $2.1 billion to $800 million.
15. Michael Saylor
The CEO and co-founder of MicroStrategy, Michael Saylor, who is a bitcoin (BTC) whale, lost his fortune due to the fall in the price of BTC. At the time of writing, the price of Bitcoin is down more than 75% from its all-time high in November 2021. Saylor’s net worth decreased from $1.6 billion in March to $640 million in December.
16. Matthew Roszak
Leading blockchain investor and advocate Matthew Roszak lost 28.57% of his personal wealth. The net worth of the co-founder of Web 3.0 infrastructure company Bloq dropped from $1.4 billion to $1 billion. Roszak’s investments include decentralized asset management platform Syndicate and the Qtum blockchain.
17. Tim Draper
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Timothy Draper, a bitcoin whale with over 29,000 BTC, also dropped from the list of billionaires. Draper’s net worth fell 54.16% from $1.2 billion to $550 million.