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Binance invests $200 million in Forbes just two years after suing it for defamation

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Web3 money is finding its way into legacy media

In this Photo illustration a Binance Bitcoin logo seen... Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Forbes has announced that Binance, “one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency and blockchain infrastructure providers,” is making a $200 million investment to own a part of an “iconic business information brand.” That money is part of a $400 million private investment in public equity (PIPE) arrangement set up for Forbes to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

The deal makes for an interesting milestone, showing how Web3 firms have reached their “let’s buy a media outlet” moment, kind of like Time Warner and AOL, or AT&T and Time Warner, or Verizon and AOL, or... you get the point.

But this arrangement also brings together Binance with Forbes, the media outlet it sued for defamation in 2020, claiming it suffered millions in losses over an article suggesting that Binance’s “elaborate corporate structure” was “designed to intentionally deceive regulators and surreptitiously profit from crypto investors in the United States.” Binance wound up dropping that lawsuit early last year, and the article remains available on Forbes.com. “Binance continues to firmly believe that the Forbes article dated October 29, 2020 is false and misleading,” the company said at the time.

Forbes is also the home to a number of articles written by Razzlekhan, aka the Crocodile of Wall Street, aka Heather Morgan, who was arrested this week, along with her husband, accused by the Department of Justice of attempting to launder $3.6 billion of Bitcoin that had been stolen from Bitfinex.

Binance’s press release isn’t subtle about why it might invest in the media outlet: CEO Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao suggests it’s about buying influence, saying “As Web3 and blockchain technologies move forward and the crypto market comes of age we know that media is an essential element to build widespread consumer understanding and education.”

Asked directly about investing in light of Morgan’s recent arrest during a separate interview with CNBC, Zhao hesitated a bit before explaining that “not every news agency is open for investments,” while noting Forbes’ brand, influence and reputation are very strong, strong enough to outweigh the impact of “one contributing writer who happens to be a hacker in her hidden life.”