By Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves
LISBON (Reuters) – The chief executive of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, said he was “extremely supportive” of freedom of speech and that was the main reason why his company decided to invest $500 million into Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter Inc.
Binance’s Changpeng Zhao, known as CZ, who is an active Twitter user with over 7 million followers, said there were “very strong reasons” why he invested in the platform.
“Number one is that we want to be extremely supportive of free speech,” Zhao said at the opening event of Europe’s largest tech conference, the Web Summit, in Lisbon, adding that Twitter is “where people express their opinions”.
“It is an important free speech platform – that’s the number one reason,” he added.
Musk’s Twitter takeover saga came to an end on Thursday when the deal officially closed after months of twists and turns in and outside the courtroom, and Musk immediately fired top executives at the platform.
It is unclear how actively involved co-investors like Binance could be in Twitter’s future as a minority investor, since Musk fully controls the board and decision-making in the now-private Twitter.
Most of his co-investors in the $44 billion deal are funds such as Sequoia Capital, Fidelity Management, Andreessen Horowitz and Brookfield. Binance said last week it is creating a team to work on how blockchain and crypto could be helpful to Twitter.
“I’m a heavy Twitter user,” Zhao said, adding Binance planned to be a long-term investor in the platform. “I want to invest in products that are important for our industry.”
Musk said on Tuesday Twitter would charge $8 for its Blue service, which includes its sought-after “verified” badge in his push to monetise the service and make the social media network less reliant on ads. Zhao said he supported the idea.
Asked about other ideas Musk has for the platform, Zhao said: “Elon Musk is a very hard guy to predict.”
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Richard Pullin)