Warren Buffett has dodged a bullet: the winner of this year’s “Lunch with Warren” charity auction has delayed the event – possibly indefinitely – after he and several of his employees were reportedly not allowed to leave mainland China. Justin Sun, the 29-yearr-old founder of the Tron Foundation, said he had come down with a ‘very painful’ case of kidney stones. But in a Weibo post published on Thursday that sounded like a forced apology, Sun apologized for “excessively” promoting the lunch, and for setting a “bad example” for the public.
In a lengthy post on Weibo, Sun, who turns 29 this month, said he acted immaturely and set a bad example for the public while “excessively” promoting the event. “It has produced a lot of consequences that I completely did not expect,” he said, without elaborating on what they were.
Hours earlier, Sun sent out public invitations to other crypto evangelists over social media. Perhaps Sun struck a nerve in a country which, only 30 years ago, might have condemned Buffett as a Western capitalist devil. But in modern China, where “to be rich is glorious” this seems unlikely, according to Bloomberg.
Instead, it’s more likely that Chinese authorities have uncovered some kind of fraud or other wrongdoing at Tron. Or, since Beijing has become increasingly hostile to the crypto industry over the pat year, the efforts to isolate Sun are part of a broader crackdown.
Rumors on Chinese social media suggest Sun and his team were denied permission to leave the country when they tried to travel to San Francisco, where this year’s lunch was slated to be held (in the past, the lunch has been held in New York). The Tron employees were reportedly only released when they promised not to attend the lunch with Buffett.
None of the parties involved – not Sun, Buffett or Beijing – responded to Bloomberg’s requests for comment.
The delay/possible cancellation is the first time in the history of ‘Lunch with Warren’ that the winning bidder has put off the lunch. Sun paid a record $4.57 million for his winning bid, and said he would use the opportunity to try and “educate” Buffett about crypto. Of course, Buffett has famously denounced cryptos as an asset class, calling bitcoin “rat poison squared”, a “delusion” and “a gambling device.” We joked at the time that Buffett was probably dreading this day – even though the Oracle of Omaha has softened his stance on the crypto space recently; he said at a conference not long ago that ‘blockchain’ was “ingenious” and would likely one day pay off for investors.
Sun, for his part, tried to calm the market’s nerves by posting video supposedly showing him in San Francisco. But few were convinced, and the price of a single Tron token weakened by 18% this week in response.