Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is in the process of buying a $200m (€176m) stake in Forbes, the media company announced.
Forbes, founded in 1917 and known for its ‘rich list’ that ranks the world’s wealthiest individuals, said the deal would help it become a leader in supplying information about digital assets such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
News of the investment prompted questions among media observers about potential conflicts of interest.
The news represents a dramatic shift in relations between the two companies, considering that Binance sued Forbes for defamation in 2020, even though it later dropped the case.
Analysts also noted that crypto assets have proven particularly vulnerable to manipulation by celebrities and media hype, prompting warnings from regulators around the world.
In a statement announcing the investment, Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao said 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 $100bn (€88bn) later took to Twitter to clarify his comments, saying his focus was on helping Forbes build out its technology and calling Forbes’ editorial independence “sacrosanct”.
He told broadcaster CNBC that his firm was also considering investing in other traditional companies as it looks to advance the adoption of blockchain, a system for recording transactions that uses a shared, decentralised ledger.
Forbes said Binance – which has faced scrutiny from regulators in the US, UK and elsewhere – would provide technology advice, helping the business publication “maximize its brand” and advance plans to convert readers to paying subscribers.
It 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.
“Forbes has been fiercely independent for more than a century, regardless of our ownership, and that is not changing,” spokesman Bill Hankes told the BBC. “The integrity of our trusted journalism is our most important brand asset,” the company said.
Back in 2018, Binance planned to have its headquarters in Malta, when the hype around cryptocurrency on the island reached a fever pitch thanks to relevant laws being introduced to regulate the industry.
But these plans were scrapped in 2019, with local regulators repeatedly reminding the public that the company never attained a licence to operate locally.
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