Ripple’s Cofounder Is Now One of the World’s Richest People
A cryptocurrency mogul is now one of the richest people in the world — at least on paper.
Chris Larsen, the cofounder, executive chairman, and former CEO of the cryptocurrency company Ripple, became the world’s fifth wealthiest person as the price of Ripple’s XRP cryptocurrency soared past the $ 3 mark this week.
The recent price surge catapulted Larsen ahead of Google (goog) cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (nos. 8 and 10 respectively, excluding Larsen) in terms of personal net worth, according to data from Forbes’ billionaires list. The lift also gave him an edge over Oracle (orcl) cofounder Larry Ellison (formerly no. 5).
Larsen personally holds 5.19 billion XRP crypto coins as well as a 17% stake in the company he cofounded, Forbes reported Tuesday, citing sources close to Ripple. Fortune has since confirmed the figures with people close to Ripple.
Larsen’s wealth swelled to extravagant proportions when the price of Ripple’s XRP token hit an unprecedented high of $ 3.84 per coin Thursday, per data from the industry tracker CoinMarketCap. Since Ripple controls 61% of the world’s supply of XRP coins — 61 billion out of 100 billion in total — the gains placed Larsen’s personal position in the cryptocurrency as well as his share of the XRP owned by his company at a dizzying total of $ 59.8 billion.
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XRP’s price has rocketed more than 1,400% since early December. On Thursday, the sum of Larsen’s newfound fortune technically exceeded the fortunes of Ellison ($ 58.9 billion), the oil tycoon Koch brothers’ ($ 51 billion apiece), Page ($ 50.8 billion), media impresario Michael Bloomberg ($ 49.7 billion), and Brin ($ 49.3 billion), in the estimation of Forbes’ billionaires list.
Larsen, who cofounded Ripple in 2012 before stepping down as CEO in 2016, has amassed a stunningly large fortune, on paper, despite the youth of his moonshot venture. The company has set its sights on an starry-eyed goal: supplanting the SWIFT interbank money transmission service and angling for XRP to become a global reserve currency held by major financial firms in order to facilitate foreign exchange markets.
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Larsen’s enlargement — and that of a growing cadre of cryptocurrency bulls, like the Winklevoss brothers — comes amid a heady, speculation-driven cryptocurrency gold-rush. You can read more about the crypto boom in Fortune’s January cover story on Bitcoin’s rise.
Last week, Ripple’s XRP rose to displace Ethereum as the number two cryptocurrency network by total market value, a title it still claims.
Astute readers will note that Larsen’s near $ 60-billion in digital funds are, for the most part, illiquid. And even if Larsen could easily convert the vast majority of his XRP coins into a traditional currency, like U.S. dollars, the influx of so many tokens into the market provoked by such a sell-off would no doubt greatly depress the value.