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Investor skewers Buffett for dismissing Bitcoin

SAN FRANCISCO — Billionaire Warren Buffett has established his credentials as a savvy money manager, but Internet trailblazer Marc Andreessen doubts the stock market sage knows much about financial innovations such as the virtual currency Bitcoin.

The wild swings in Bitcoin's value during recent months prompted Buffett, 83, to dismiss the currency as a "mirage" during an interview on the financial news channel CNBC this month.

The putdown irked Andreessen, who is now running a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has invested about $50 million in startups betting that Bitcoin will continue to catch on as an alternative payment system around the world.

"The historical track record of old white men who don't understand technology cr- -ping on new technology is, I think, 100 percent," Andreessen quipped to the delight of Bitcoin enthusiasts attending a conference Tuesday in San Francisco.

Buffett, who has built a $64 billion fortune through his control of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., didn't respond to requests for comment.

Andreessen, 42 and also white, is revered in technology circles for co-founding Netscape Communications, which helped popularize and commercialize the Internet during the mid 1990s with a then-revolutionary Web browser.

His venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has emerged as one of the country's most successful tech investors. An early investment in virtual reality headset maker Oculus paid off Tuesday with Facebook's announcement that it is buying the startup for $2 billion.

After his on-stage appearance at the Bitcoin conference, Andreessen noted on his Twitter account that Buffett's technological naivete has been well-known for decades. "I, myself, know nothing about railroads," Andreessen tweeted. "Correspondingly have no view on them."

During the past year, one Bitcoin has traded for under $100 and more than $1,100. Recently, it has been trading at about $600. At that price, a Bitcoin is still worth about eight times more than it was a year ago. That prompted Andreessen Horowitz general partner Balaji Srinivasan to tell the Bitcoin conference that the currency has generated better returns than Berkshire Hathaway's Class A stock, which has climbed by about 21 percent during the past year.

Buffett, though, has said he doesn't view Bitcoin as a currency, and the Internal Revenue Service is siding with him for now. In a ruling Tuesday, the IRS said that for U.S. tax purposes, virtual currencies will be treated as a piece of property instead of legal tender.

Investor skewers Buffett for dismissing Bitcoin 03/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 8:31pm]
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