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Opinion
Justin Fox

The ‘Next Warren Buffett’ Curse Isn’t Always Fatal

Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried couldn’t survive the comparison. Others who actually invest somewhat like the Berkshire Hathaway chairman fare better. 

Still the champ.

Still the champ.

Photographer: Houston Cofield/Bloomberg

A couple of months ago, crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried was peering out from the cover of Fortune magazine above the words “The Next Warren Buffett?” Now he’s at the center of a spectacular financial collapse, with a net worth estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at zero when I checked last.

Less spectacularly — and much less disastrously for those who entrusted their money to him — venture capitalist and “SPAC king” Chamath Palihapitiya announced in September that he was closing his biggest special purpose acquisition company and one other and returning $1.6 billion to investors, 20 months after describing in a Bloomberg interview how he envisioned himself taking over the Berkshire Hathaway chairman’s “mantle” with a “Berkshire-like instrument that is all things, you know, not to sound egotistical, but all things Chamath, all things Social Capital.” Guo Guangchang, who said in 2014 that he aimed to build his Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. into a “Buffett-style investment company,” is in the midst of an apparent fire sale as he seeks to raise money for debt payments. Finally — and this admittedly may be stretching it, given that my sources are some guy’s LinkedIn post and an article at Yahoo! Finance Canada — tech investor Cathie Wood earned some “next Warren Buffett” praise in 2021, and her ARK Innovation fund is down 65% over the past year.