In the latest twist for the 105-year-old media brand, Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency corporations, will take a $200 million (£147.6 million) investment in Forbes.
Forbes, which is known for its billionaire rankings, said the purchase will help it become a leader in providing information about digital assets such as Bitcoin.
However, the news of the transaction raised concerns among media observers about possible conflicts of interest.
Binance sued Forbes for slander in 2020, but the case was eventually dropped.
Analysts also warned that crypto assets have been particularly subject to celebrity and media hype manipulation, prompting regulatory warnings from throughout the world.
Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao said in a statement announcing the investment that he sees media as “an vital ingredient to promote wider consumer understanding and education” of the crypto market and new blockchain technologies.
The Chinese Canadian billionaire, whose net wealth is estimated to be around $100 billion, later clarified his remarks on Twitter, stating his focus was on helping Forbes grow out its technology and defending Forbes’ editorial independence, which he described as “sacrosanct.”
He told CNBC that his company was looking to invest in other traditional companies in order to accelerate the adoption of blockchain, a transaction recording technology that employs a shared, decentralised ledger.
Binance, which has been scrutinised by regulators in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, will provide technology guidance to Forbes, allowing the business journal to “maximise its brand” and move on with efforts to convert readers to paying subscribers.
It stated that the transaction would not alter its coverage regions, but that it would allow its existing digital assets team and “certain additional beats” to grow over time.
“Regardless of our ownership, Forbes has been fiercely independent for more than a century, and that will not change,” spokesman Bill Hankes told media. “Our most valuable brand asset is the trustworthiness of our trusted journalism.”
The agreement comes at a crucial time for the cryptocurrency industry. Companies have been spending on sports stadium sponsorships, advertising, and government lobbying to grow their influence and shape anticipated regulation, while currencies like Bitcoin have seen their values surge.
As they seek to expand their reach, many crypto companies are expanding out into other areas, including media, according to Henri Arslanian, a partner at PwC who frequently advises crypto companies.
Even if both sides guarantee independence, he believes the partnership between Binance and a big US media company will create concerns.
He remarked on Twitter, “Binance buying part of Forbes is like McDonald’s buying part of Yelp or Marriott buying part of Trip Advisor.”
“Even if there isn’t a direct conflict of interest, I believe the perception will persist,” he told the journalists later.