Crypto exchange puts its virtual riches into real world stuff

Binance’s investment in Forbes is raising questions about potential conflicts of interest

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, will make a $200 million strategic investment in the 104-year-old US business media brand Forbes, CNBC reported on Thursday. Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao told the broadcaster he saw media as “an essential element to build widespread consumer understanding and education” of the crypto market and emerging blockchain technologies.

The Chinese Canadian billionaire, whose net worth is estimated to be nearly $100 billion, added that his firm was also eyeing investments in other traditional companies as it looks to advance the adoption of blockchain.

Forbes said the deal would help make it a leader in supplying information about digital assets like Bitcoin. According to CNBC sources, the funds will help Forbes execute its plan to merge with a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

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Binance will replace half of the $400 million in commitments from institutional investors announced by Forbes in August, the unnamed sources said. That would make Binance one of the top two biggest owners of Forbes, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker FRBS, they added.

News of the investment raised questions about potential conflicts of interest. In 2020, Binance sued Forbes for defamation over a story the magazine published regarding the exchange’s corporate structure. The crypto exchange later dropped the case.

Forbes said the deal would not change its areas of coverage, but hopefully allow its existing digital assets team and “some other beats” to grow over time. The company’s spokesman, Bill Hankes, told the BBC, “Forbes has been fiercely independent for more than a century, regardless of our ownership, and that is not changing,” adding: “The integrity of our trusted journalism is our most important brand asset.”

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