Top 5 Billionaires Who Lost the Most Money in Crypto

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From the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) and Gary Wang’s FTX to the fall of Binance’s Changpeng Zhao (CZ), the cryptocurrency industry has witnessed some of the biggest pitfalls in the last couple of years, with a number of notable individuals losing millions if not billions of dollars-worth in crypto.

Who lost the most money in crypto in past years, and why are even seasoned investors and billionaires prone to lose money in the industry?

We talked to experts about the major reasons for such dire losses and identified the key best practices crypto investors could use to protect their money.

Key Takeaways

  • Crypto investments are prone to fall victim to high volatility and risks, as evidenced by massive losses experienced by key figures in the industry.
  • Understanding the underlying technology and market dynamics is crucial for navigating the complexities of the crypto space.
  • Seasoned investors can also face significant losses, highlighting the unpredictability of crypto markets.
  • Implementing strong security practices and risk management strategies is essential for protecting investments.

Who Lost the Most Money in Crypto?

The cryptocurrency market continues to be highly volatile, which is why investors must be able to grasp the fundamentals before judging the risks or getting caught up in the hype and fear of missing out (FOMO) of many decentralized finance (DeFi) projects, Dr. Fardad Zand, the co-founder and CEO of Wisdomise, told Techopedia.

“Poor security practices can also lead to losses from scams and hacks. In addition, overleveraging amplifies potential gains and losses for traders — many get liquidated when the volatile market turns against them.”

The lack of a solid risk management strategy that would dictate to investors when the right time to exit a trade is regardless of its outcome is also another reason why individuals could be prone to lose large sums of money while trading cryptocurrencies, Jonathan Solomon, the co-founder and co-CEO of ARIA, added.

So, who were the people who lost the most money in crypto in recent years?

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Top 5 Crypto Billionaires Who Lost the Most Money in Crypto
Source: Statista

Changpeng Zhao (CZ): $82 Billion

One of the most prominent names in the cryptocurrency industry, the former CEO of Binance Changpeng Zhao, allegedly lost around $82 billion during the crypto winter of 2022, data on Statista showed.

However, since then, the crypto billionaire’s net worth continued to decline, as he pleaded guilty to violating anti-money laundering requirements enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice in late November 2023 and paid a $4 billion settlement.

Despite the losses, it is estimated that CZ has a net worth of $33 billion as of April 2024.

Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF): $23 Billion

Another prominent name in the cryptocurrency industry, Sam Bankman-Fried, was the former co-founder of the doomed crypto exchange FTX, who lost about $23 billion, according to Statista, as the value of FTX and related assets collapsed.

ARIA’s Solomon noted that in SBF’s case, his losses could have been attributed to high-risk strategies that led to significant financial losses.

However, SBF had also faced allegations of fraud for his role in the collapse of FTX, including defrauding the exchange’s customers. His actions led to a significant loss of customer funds and investments, resulting in his arrest and a trial where he was found guilty.

On April 1, 2024, SBF revealed that he was planning to appeal his 25-year sentence in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

Brian Armstrong: $4.7 Billion

Brian Armstrong, the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, is another big name in the cryptocurrency space who lost a significant amount of money when the market plummeted in 2022.

Armstrong’s wealth was closely tied to Coinbase’s performance and the overall health of the crypto market. Therefore, when the crypto winter occurred in 2022, and the industry faced substantial losses, so did Armstrong’s net worth.

Still, even with the loss of $4.7 billion, estimated by Statista, Brian Armstrong’s net worth is $10.9 billion as of April 2024.

Anndy Lian, an inter-governmental blockchain adviser, further explained how the 2022 crypto winter could have affected investors:

“Many investors are drawn to the allure of quick profits without fully understanding the assets they’re investing in. This, coupled with the market’s notorious volatility, can lead to substantial financial losses.

 

Prices in the crypto market can swing dramatically, and without a solid grasp of market trends and the factors driving them, investors can find themselves buying high and selling low.”

Gary Wang: $1.7 Billion

Gary Wang, the former co-founder and CTO of FTX, also faced a substantial loss of about $1.7 billion following the collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, according to Statista.

Most of his fortune was tied up in a 16% stake in FTX and a share of its FTT tokens. As of April 2024, Garry Wang dropped off all the Forbes ratings.

Chris Larsen: $1.3 Billion

Chris Larsen is known as a pioneering force in cryptocurrency, having co-founded Ripple, a digital payment protocol and currency exchange.

In 2022, he also faced a significant loss of $1.3 billion due to the downturn in the cryptocurrency market, according to Statista.

As of April 2024, Larsen’s net worth is $3.2 billion.

Other Prominent Losses: TerraUSD/LUNA Crash

Meanwhile, the collapse of the TerraUSD (UST) stablecoin and its sister cryptocurrency, LUNA, is not directly linked to one person losing all their assets. Industry experts allege this collapse was one of the most “catastrophic” losses in the crypto market.

The pitfall of TerraUSD and Luna in May 2022 wiped out almost $45 billion in crypto market capitalization in just one week.

Do Kwon, the co-founder of Terraform Labs, is often blamed for this collapse; however, his losses are not mentioned in public sources.

Why Even Seasoned Investors Lose Money on Crypto?

Many might think that seasoned investors are rarely ever prone to face substantial losses in the crypto space, but that is rarely true.

Wisdomise’s Dr. Zand explained:

“Sometimes, overconfidence leads them to misjudge the actual risks involved. The technological complexities of blockchain and smart contracts are easy to overlook or misunderstand.

The crypto market is susceptible to manipulation by wealthy “whale” players, which can catch experienced investors off guard with volatile price swings. Some black swan events like major exchange hacks or new regulations can also unpredictably impact the entire market.”

Lian added that the complexity of the market, which is often characterized by its rapid evolution and the development of new technologies, could also pose significant challenges that even seasoned investors cannot evade.

Additionally, the crypto space is prone to high-profile scams and security breaches, which can also lead to financial losses.

Lian added:

“Market manipulation is another hazard that can lead to losses. Influential players can distort market prices, affecting the entire market and catching even the most vigilant investors off guard.”

Best Practices to Protect Your Money: Risk Management & Research

Lian highlighted that some of the critical takeaways from situations like these are the importance of risk management and research. He said:

  • Understanding the assets, the technology behind them, and the market dynamics is crucial for making informed decisions.
  • Emotional discipline is also essential; investors must learn to control their emotions and avoid making impulsive decisions based on fear or greed.
  • Moreover, the significance of security practices cannot be overstated.
  • Investors should prioritize the security of their investments by using reputable platforms, enabling two-factor authentication, and being wary of too-good-to-be-true schemes that could be fraudulent.

Additionally, developing a long-term investment strategy could also act as a safety net for many investors.

ARIA’s Solomon said:

“The historical performance of Bitcoin illustrates that holding investments over the long term has been profitable for those who have stayed the course, unlike many traders who have faced challenges in recent years. This emphasizes the importance of patience and the potential benefits of a long-term investment horizon in the crypto market.”

The Bottom Line

The dramatic losses in the crypto world underline the high volatility and risk inherent in cryptocurrency investments, as well as the market’s complexity and rapid evolution.

From the collapse of FTX, affecting Sam Bankman-Fried and Gary Wang, to the regulatory challenges faced by Changpeng Zhao and the market downturns impacting Brian Armstrong and Chris Larsen, these events highlight the precarious nature of wealth in the crypto industry.

They serve as a reminder of the importance of having robust risk management, a deep understanding of blockchain technology, and the importance of navigating the market with caution.

FAQs

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Iliana Mavrou
Crypto journalist
Iliana Mavrou
Crypto journalist

Iliana is an experienced crypto/tech journalist reporting on blockchain, regulation, DeFi, and Web3 industries. Before joining Techopedia, she contributed to a number of online publications, including Capital.com, Cryptonews, and Business2Community, among others. In addition to working in journalism, she also has experience in tech and crypto PR.  Iliana graduated from the City University of London with a degree in Journalism in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Communication.