Binance's Yi He sheds light on relationship with CZ, tells Bloomberg she's no Caroline Ellison

Quick Take

  • Binance co-founder Yi He rejected comparisons between her relationship with CZ and the previous relationship between SBF and Caroline Ellison at now-defunct FTX.
  • “Caroline was an employee, whereas I am a partner,” Yi He told Bloomberg.

Binance co-founder Yi He, in a recent series of interviews with Bloomberg, dismissed any likening of her relationship with Binance CEO and co-founder Changpeng "CZ" Zhao to a past romantic connection between disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and his ex-colleague Caroline Ellison.

"There is a significant distinction here: Caroline was an employee, whereas I am a partner," Yi He told Bloomberg in a report published Wednesday. "The relationship between co-founders requires much more than what a dating relationship does. A co-founder relationship is about comradeship, a dating relationship is about chemistry. The former is based on shared beliefs and goes beyond gender, the latter is based on physical attraction and selfish desires."

Bankman-Fried and Ellison were reportedly occasionally in a romantic relationship, which was widely discussed after FTX filed for bankruptcy last November.

Yi He and Zhao have been business and life partners and have children together. She called Zhao a "comrade-in-arms," comparing the relationship to that of a college roommate. 

As for curiosity and speculation about Yi He's relationship with Zhao, she described it as similar to the way fans wish for a romantic relationship between two people, either on-screen or in real life, known as "shipping" in slang. She also drew a parallel with Amazon when Jeff Bezos's former wife, MacKenzie Scott, contributed in the early years of the company's founding.

Binance co-founders and their relationship

Yi He and Zhao have known each other at least since their OKCoin days. In 2014, Yi He hired Zhao as chief technology officer of OKCoin and brought him into the crypto exchange business, she told Bloomberg. In 2017, when Binance was founded, Zhao asked her to be a consultant for the company, and later, she went on to become his co-founder. Zhao's "bringing me to Binance is based on the achievements I had already established," Yi He said.

Yi He also briefly addressed what Binance would look like if they were ever to depart the company, adding that they both have backup executives in training that she didn't name.

"I think we'll be fine. We're not single points of failure," she said. Richard Teng, Binance's head of regional markets outside the U.S., is reportedly seen as the most likely successor to Zhao.

Binance is currently embroiled in a legal battle with regulators in the U.S., with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission both suing the exchange and Zhao for allegedly violating federal laws. According to Yi He, Binance is willing to adapt to the evolving regulatory landscape.

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