By Alan Murray and Tom Huddleston Jr.
January 10, 2018

Good morning.

I have an idea for Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund guy who once wanted to be known as the Next Warren Buffett, but instead will be remembered as the Guy Who Killed Sears. (Grave digging continued yesterday when Lands End CEO Jerome Griffith said the iconic retailer “will go away.”)

My idea: Lampert should do an ICO. Call it SearsCoin.

Sound crazy? Not any crazier than what Kodak, another great brand fallen into oblivion, announced at CES yesterday. The company is forming a joint venture with London-based Wenn Media Group to launch KodakCoin, a blockchain-based initiative to help photographers control their photo rights. It is also launching Kodak KashMiner, to put bitcoin mining machines at its Rochester, NY, headquarters. I’m not joking. “Kodak has always sought to democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists,” said CEO Jeff Clarke. “These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that.”

And here’s the punchline: Kodak’s shares yesterday rose 120%!

Conventional wisdom holds it’s hard to know a bubble until it pops. I disagree. We are in a cryptocurrency bubble. Today’s ICOs are the IPOs of the 1990s.

And while we are drawing parallels, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has become the Alan Greenspan of this episode. Greenspan famously talked of “irrational exuberance” in 1996—four years before the market peaked. Dimon came to the Fortune Global Forum in 2015 and said a virtual currency “was never going to happen.” Yesterday, on Fox Business, Dimon said he regretted calling cryptocurrency a “fraud”. But it’s clear he hasn’t changed his view. “I just have a different opinion than other people.”

Here’s another one: Chris Larsen is the Michael Saylor of this go-round. Saylor was CEO of MicroStrategy, which did its IPO in 1998 and then saw it soar so high that by early 2000, Saylor had a paper net worth of $7 billion . . . before reports of an SEC investigation burst the bubble. (Saylor is still CEO of a deflated MicroStrategy today.) Larsen is the serious-minded cofounder and executive chairman of Ripple, whose cryptocurrency XRP is trading so high that his paper net worth has reached $60 billion. Not surprisingly, that’s sparking lawsuits from others who want some of the funny money.

Bottom line: We’ve seen this movie before. We know the actors. We know the plot. And we know how it ends . . .

We just don’t know when.

News below.


Alan Murray


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