The value of cryptocurrencies skyrocketed in 2017 to more than $600 billion, minting scores of crypto millionaires.
A few lucky holders are also breathing the rarefied air of the billionaires club — and not just in the most valuable cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which has a market capitalization of $237 billion.
Two billionaires who now easily rank among the wealthiest Americans include the current and former CEOs of Ripple, a San Francisco-based company using blockchain technology in international financial transactions. It issues a token called XRP that, as of Monday, January 1, had a market capitalization of $88.9 billion; each XRP was trading at $2.39, according to Coinmarketcap. Just the week before, Ripple had surpassed Ethereum to become the second-most-valuable crypto asset.
Cofounder and former CEO Chris Larsen, who stepped down in November 2016 and now serves as executive chairman of Ripple, has 5.19 billion XRP in his personal holdings and a 17% stake in the company, according to sources at Ripple. That gives him a net worth of $37.3 billion, using Monday’s exchange rate.
That would make him the 15th richest American on the 2017 Forbes 400 list as of Monday, tying him with Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO and current owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. He ranks a bit ahead of Abigail Johnson, the CEO of Fidelity, who is herself a big cryptocurrency fan, plus hedge funder Ray Dalio and investor Carl Icahn, both of whom have made headlines for calling Bitcoin a bubble.
Current Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse owns a 6.3% stake in Ripple, according to a source at the company, and owns additional XRP tokens. He has a net worth of at least $9.5 billion. That would land him at around 54 on the list, with the addition of Larsen, just two slots below Charles Schwab.
XRP skyrocketed in 2017 from $0.006 on January 1 to $2.30 on December 31 — a return of 38,000%.