July 25, 2019; Fox Business
In a scene reminiscent of HBO’s Silicon Valley, Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun has issued a confusing apology for blowing off expensive lunch plans with Warren Buffett. Sun has bid (and, we hope, paid) $4.5 million for this year’s annual lunch, the proceeds of which go to the Glide Foundation.
Sun explained himself thusly:
“I cannot deny that I want to promote blockchain-related business at the same time. However, because of my immature words, behavior, youth, and vigor, I spoke without thinking twice,” Sun wrote in his post that appeared on Weibo just before 3 a.m. Beijing time Thursday. “It became a failing of over-marketing that was out of my control. It also generated a much-unexpected outcome on me.”
Sun had been counting down the days on social media, but in the end called the whole thing off on Monday because (1) he was sick, (2) was not allowed to leave the country. Bizarre as the second option sounds, the New York Times says it would not be without precedent:
As the Chinese authorities take an increasingly heavy-handed approach to policing the business and financial worlds, executives have been known to disappear for months and even years.
The chairman of a conglomerate that bought the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York was taken away, emerging a year later at a televised court hearing where he pleaded guilty to financial fraud. One of China’s wealthiest financiers was wheeled out of the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong two years ago and is now widely believed to be on the mainland. An oil tycoon has not been seen since early last year, and his company is being taken apart by officials.
The gone-in-the-night style of policing has sometimes turned China’s business community upside down. Speculation that the billionaire chairman of one of China’s biggest private conglomerates, Fosun Group, had been detained finally led him to do a video stream to assure investors that he was fine.
Among other criticisms of the 29-year-old founder of Tron is one from the Chinese Communist party, which accused Sun of trying to grandstand and raise his own profile through heralding his lunch plans so enthusiastically. Apparently, China, like Buffett, is no big fan of cryptocurrency, and the media speculation that has followed Sun’s regrets has flown fast and furious.
In another post on his Chinese social media account overnight, Mr. Sun wrote a long apology to regulators and the media, thanking them for their insight and criticism and expressing regret over how he had marketed Tron. Mr. Sun added that he would cooperate with regulators without offering any details. “I will put the interests of the country, sector and the public above anything else,” he wrote. “I will abandon my own self-interests, actively reform, abide the law to operate and contribute more positive energy for the development of blockchain industry.”
Sun would not have been the first Chinese businessman to win a lunch with Buffett; he’s been offering these lunches for years to support Glide and in memory of his late wife, Susie. In 2012, Zhu Ye, Chairman of Dalian Zeus Entertainment Co., an online gaming company based in China, placed the winning bid.—Ruth McCambridge