Actually, I have heard of a version of this. Sites that link out to a large number of top-quality sites are known as "hub" sites. Sites that have links from a lot of high-quality sites are known as "authority" sites.
Either one can potentially do very well in the search engines.
This is not to say that you HAVE to link out to do well, or that not linking out will lead to a penalty. Just that sites that link out intelligently give the search engines a signal that they're good 'web citizens' which could potentially stand in their favor. At the very least, it won't hurt.