A year ago, Sam Bankman-Fried and Changpeng Zhao ran two of the largest crypto companies. As they grapple with legal woes, others are jockeying to lead the industry’s next chapter.
The price of Bitcoin is surging again. Major financial firms are showing renewed interest in digital currencies. And crypto fanatics are celebrating the end of a long period of depressed prices and business collapses.
But the sudden explosion of optimism has come at a turbulent moment for the cryptocurrency industry.
The last time crypto prices were skyrocketing, the industry’s most influential executives were Sam Bankman-Fried and Changpeng Zhao, rival billionaires whose online sparring could move markets. Now Mr. Bankman-Fried, the founder of the FTX crypto exchange, and Mr. Zhao, who ran the world’s largest crypto firm, Binance, both face prison time after parallel falls from power.
A federal jury convicted Mr. Bankman-Fried last month on fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from FTX’s collapse. Three weeks later, Mr. Zhao pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge and agreed to relinquish control of Binance.