Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency companies, will invest $200 million in Forbes, in the latest twist in the 105-year-old history of the media brand.
Forbes, known for its billionaire rankings, said the agreement will help it become a leader in providing information about digital assets such as Bitcoin.
However, the news of the transaction prompted concerns among media observers about potential conflicts of interest.
Binance sued Forbes for slander in 2020, but dropped the suit later that year.
Analysts also warned that crypto assets have shown particularly prone to celebrity and media hype manipulation, prompting regulators around the world to issue warnings.
Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao, said in a statement announcing the investment that he viewed media as “an essential element to build widespread consumer understanding and education” of the crypto market and the fast-emerging blockchain technologies.
The Chinese Canadian billionaire, whose net wealth is believed to be around $100 billion, later clarified his remarks on Twitter, stating his focus was on assisting Forbes in building out its technology and called Forbes’ editorial independence “sacrosanct.”
He told CNBC that his firm was looking to invest in other traditional industries in order to boost the use of blockchain, a mechanism for recording transactions that employs a shared, decentralized ledger.
Forbes stated that Binance, which has been scrutinized by regulators in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, would provide technology guidance, assisting the business journal to “maximize its brand” and progress plans to convert readers to paying subscribers.
It stated that the investment would not modify its coverage regions, but would allow its existing digital assets team and “certain additional 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 transaction takes place at a critical juncture in the cryptocurrency sector. Bitcoin’s value has skyrocketed, while corporations have spent on sports stadium sponsorships, advertising, and government lobbying to increase their influence and shape anticipated regulation.
Many crypto organizations have expanded into other industries, like media, in order to broaden their reach, according to Henri Arslanian, a partner at PwC who frequently advises crypto firms.
Even if both parties guarantee independence, he believes the partnership between Binance and a large US media brand will create concerns.
“Binance buying part of Forbes is like McDonald’s buying part of Yelp or Marriott buying part of Trip Advisor,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Even though there might not be a direct conflict of interest, I think the perception will remain,” he later told the BBC.
Forbes was established in 1917 and for decades was a family-owned business, with a reputation for chronicling business titans. However, as with many others in the media industry, its move from print to digital has been difficult.
The Forbes family put the company up for sale in 2013, and Hong Kong-based Integrated Whale Media bought a majority interest.
Forbes announced in August that it would go public on the New York Stock Exchange through a merger with Magnum Opus, a corporation formed to buy firms aiming to go public.
The corporations claimed the agreement, which valued Forbes at around $630 million and is anticipated to be completed within weeks, would include a $400 million investment from other partners. Binance is presently trailing by half of that amount.
“Forbes is committed to demystifying the complexities and providing helpful information about blockchain technologies and all emerging digital assets,” Forbes chief executive Mike Federle said.
“With Binance’s investment in Forbes, we now have the experience, network and resources of the world’s leading crypto exchange and one of the world’s most successful blockchain innovators. Forbes, already a resource for people interested in the emerging world of digital assets, can become a true leader in the field with their help.”
(Adapted from BBC.com)