Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency firms, will invest $200 million (£147.6 million) in Forbes, marking the latest development for the 105-year-old media company.
Forbes, known for its billionaire rankings, said the deal would help it become a leader in providing information about digital assets such as Bitcoin.
However, the news of the investment caused concern among media observers about potential conflicts of interest. Binance sued Forbes for defamation in 2020, but dropped the suit later that year.
Analysts also noted that crypto assets have proven particularly vulnerable to celebrity and media hype manipulation, prompting regulators around the world to issue warnings.
As reported by BBC, in a statement announcing the investment, Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao said he saw media as “an essential element to build widespread consumer understanding and education” of the crypto market and emerging blockchain technologies.
The Chinese Canadian billionaire, whose net worth is estimated to be nearly $100 billion, later clarified his remarks on Twitter, saying his focus was on assisting Forbes in building out its technology and calling Forbes’ editorial independence “sacrosanct.”
Forbes said Binance – which has faced scrutiny from regulators in the US, UK and elsewhere – would provide technology advice, helping the business publication “maximize its brand” and advance plans to convert readers to paying subscribers.
It said the deal would not change its areas of coverage, but hopefully allow its existing digital assets team and “some other 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 deal comes at a key moment for the crypto industry. Currencies such as Bitcoin have seen values skyrocket, while companies have been spending on sports stadium sponsorships, advertising and government lobbying to expand their influence and shape anticipated regulation.
Many crypto firms have been branching out into new areas, including media, as they look to increase their reach, said Henri Arslanian, a partner at PwC who frequently advises crypto firms.
He added even if both sides promise independence, the tie-up between Binance and a major US media brand will raise questions.
“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 now has a global audience of more than 150 million people, with 45 licenced local editions in 76 countries. Its online content is supplemented by articles written by a small army of contributors, a model that has raised concerns about the brand’s dependability at times.
Heather Morgan, one of its former contributors, was charged this week with participating in a scheme to launder millions of dollars stolen in 2016 in a Bitcoin exchange hack. According to Forbes, the relationship ended last year.