Ripple co-founder loses $44 billion on paper during cryptocurrency crash

The digital currency plunge has wiped billions from the paper fortune of a cryptocurrency billionaire in just a few weeks.

Ripple’s XRP coin has fallen 74 percent from an all-time high of $3.84 hit on Jan. 4, erasing $44 billion from the holdings of Chris Larsen, co-founder and executive chairman of Ripple.

With XRP trading near $1 Wednesday, Larsen now holds the equivalent of just $15.8 billion, according to CNBC calculations using figures from Forbes. Citing sources at Ripple, Forbes said earlier this month that Larsen has 5.19 billion of XRP and a 17 percent stake in the start-up. Ripple holds 61.3 billion of the 100 billion XRP coins in existence.

At XRP’s peak on Jan. 4, Larsen was worth $59.9 billion. That made him one of the five richest people in the U.S. and wealthier than Google’s founders, based on Forbes’ rich list.

A Ripple spokesperson had nothing to add at the time, and did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment Wednesday.

Ripple 12-month performance

Source: CoinMarketCap

Major digital currencies have plunged in the last two days after reports raised concerns about increased regulation on cryptocurrencies in South Korea and China. Last week, XRP prices also appeared to fall after CoinMarketCap said it was excluding prices from certain Korean exchanges due to significant price differences with other markets.

On Wednesday, bitcoin dropped below $10,000 on CoinDesk for the first time since late November. Ethereum was close to 18 percent lower near $865, after falling through the $1,000 level Tuesday, according to CoinMarketCap.

With bitcoin trading near $9,870 on Wednesday, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ possible holdings of the digital currency have fallen to around $904 million. The brothers had a combined worth of more than $1 billion in bitcoin as the digital currency surged in December. The calculations are based on a report the brothers had $11 million in bitcoin at $120 a coin in April 2013.

A representative for the twins did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment. The brothers may have sold or bought bitcoin since April 2013.

January’s price rout hardly dents cryptocurrencies’ massive gains in 2017. Bitcoin soared about 1,500 percent, while XRP shot up more than 35,500 percent.

The losses may have knocked Ripple’s Larsen from the five wealthiest people in America. But at $15.9 billion he still beats 32nd place Rupert Murdoch, who has a net worth of $15.4 billion according to Forbes.

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