Gemini co-founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss grabbed headlines last month when the value of their publicized bitcoin holdings surpassed $1 billion, making them the first “verified” bitcoin billionaires. However, blockchain data indicates that there could be as many as 200 bitcoin billionaires who have kept their holdings a secret to maintain their privacy.
That’s according to an MSN Money report, which cites an unnamed source at blockchain data aggregation website BitInfoCharts.
“A rep for BitInfoCharts, who wished to remain anonymous because of security concerns, told MONEY in an email that, given Bitcoin’s current overall market capitalization and that most people hold Bitcoin at multiple addresses, there may actually be as many as 200 Bitcoin billionaires, and possibly no fewer than 35,” the report said.
Two hundred would seem to be an extremely high estimate, given that bitcoin’s market cap is currently $235 billion, but 35 seems quite plausible.
As demonstrated by the site’s “Rich List,” there are six individual addresses that hold more than $1 billion worth of bitcoins. One address has been identified as belonging to cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, while the other address owners are unknown but may belong to other exchanges, custodial services, or hedge funds.
However, most bitcoin users spread their holdings across multiple addresses, and many newer bitcoin wallets automatically generate new addresses every time the user selects “receive” in the client. Wallet explorers can link together addresses belonging to the same wallet, but careful users can keep their funds in several wallets that do not interact with one another, concealing the fact that they share an owner.
It has been well-publicized that bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto most likely owned addresses containing nearly 1 million BTC, worth more than $13 billion at current exchange rates. Altogether, 149 addresses contain at least $100 million in bitcoin. Assuming Satoshi is a single person and he or she retains access to these wallets — which many people doubt — they would rank among the top 100 richest people in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Believe it or not, though, Satoshi’s wealth has been eclipsed by that of another cryptocurrency project founder. Chris Larsen, a co-founder of fintech startup Ripple, is currently worth more than $37.3 billion thanks to his 5.19 billion XRP in personal holdings and 17 percent stake in the company, according to a Forbes report. This would make him the 21st-richest person in the world, were he included in the Bloomberg index.