‘Excessive Self-Promotion’: Justin Sun Apologizes After Postponing Charity Lunch With Warren Buffett

Cryptocurrency investor and entrepreneur Justin Sun apologized on Chinese social media for what he described as “excessive self promotion,” after a tumultuous few days following his postponement of a charity lunch with Warren Buffett this week.

“I feel deeply ashamed of my excessive self-promotion as well as my penchant for hyping up things,” the 29-year-old said in a long post in Chinese on Weibo, a Twitter -like microblogging site in China.

Mr. Sun said he took part in the annual charity auction to win a lunch date with Mr. Buffett because he admired the billionaire investor. He said he may also have been “a little bit selfish” because he wanted to promote the blockchain industry he works in. Mr. Sun won the auction with a record $4.6 million bid and has made the donation.

The lunch, according to his post, “evolved into an excessive marketing campaign that became uncontrollable and failed,” and led to consequences that Mr. Sun said he didn’t foresee or intend. “During the process, my feelings turned from excitement to anxiety and later to fear and regret.” He apologized to Chinese leaders and regulators, the media and the public.

Mr. Sun, a Chinese citizen who has a large social-media following, founded a cryptocurrency platform called Tron and is chief executive of file-sharing service BitTorrent. He is also the creator of a Chinese social network and live-streaming app called Peiwo, whose name means “accompany me.” The company that owns Peiwo, which has drawn criticism in Chinese media over its content, was recently dissolved.

Mr. Sun’s Weibo post, which appeared at 2:46 a.m. Beijing time Thursday, followed days of twists and turns. After Mr. Sun won Mr. Buffett’s charity auction about two months ago, the two agreed to meet for lunch in San Francisco on July 25.

On Tuesday morning in Asia, a foundation backed by Mr. Sun said on Twitter that he was suffering from kidney stones and would reschedule the lunch date. That was just hours after Mr. Sun personally tweeted out invites to some crypto industry participants to join him at the event.

That day, two Chinese business media outlets published reports that alleged Mr. Sun’s businesses had engaged in illicit activities including illegal fundraising, gambling and money laundering. Caixin, a prominent business magazine and website, also reported that Mr. Sun was under regulatory scrutiny and restricted from travel outside China. The information in the reports couldn’t be independently verified by the Journal.

Mr. Sun initially responded with a post on Weibo that said the media reports were untrue. On Twitter, he shared a video taken of himself in a room with a view overlooking San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, seemingly to demonstrate that he wasn’t in China. “It’s pretty comfortable in San Francisco,” he said in the nine-minute video, adding he was looking forward to rescheduling lunch with Mr. Buffett.

He later tweeted that he was feeling much better and expecting to return to work by Friday, sparking further speculation.

Cliff Edwards, a U.S.-based spokesman for Mr. Sun, said he had no comment on the apology on Weibo. “Justin was speaking to the Chinese community,” Mr. Edwards said in an emailed reply to the Journal.

A representative for Mr. Buffett didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

In the latest post, Mr. Sun said he regrets his “immature words and behaviors” and the issues it created for regulators and others who have helped him in the past. He said he holds Caixin and its publisher in high regard, but didn’t address the publication’s allegation that he was facing travel restrictions and regulatory scrutiny.

He pledged to do less marketing, post less frequently on social media, minimize his interactions with the media and go back to focusing on researching and developing blockchain technology. “In everything I do, I will discard my own selfishness, and put the interest of the country, the industry and the public first,” Mr. Sun wrote.

 

By Stella Yifan Xie and Steven Russolillo