Warren Buffett charity lunch sells for $3.7 million

Warren Buffett talks with a reporter before the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in May 2017.
Warren Buffett talks with a reporter before the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in May 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - An anonymous fan of Warren Buffett agreed to pay US$2,679,001 (S$3,707,000) at an online charity auction to have lunch with the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

The winning bid came in the closing seconds of the five-day eBay auction, which drew 41 bids before ending on Friday night (June 9). It was lower than the record US$3,456,789 bid in similar auctions in 2012 and 2016.

Money will go to Glide, a San Francisco charity that provides food, health care and other services to the homeless, the impoverished, and people struggling with substance abuse.

The successful bidder and up to seven friends will dine with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steak house in Manhattan. All topics are fair game apart from where Buffett will invest next.

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Buffett has held 18 annual auctions for Glide, raising about US$26.3 million. He became involved with Glide after his first wife, Susan, became a volunteer, prior to her death in 2004.

"We are very delighted and proud that Mr. Buffett has for years made sure that he participates," the Reverend Cecil Williams, 87, co-founder of Glide and pastor since 1963 of the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, said after the auction ended.

Contributions have a "tremendous impact" on people who find themselves "really unable to come to grips with the issue of poverty in urban America," Williams said.

Glide uses its US$18 million annual budget to provide more than 750,000 free meals, emergency shelter for 8,500 people, 2,600 HIV and Hepatitis C tests, and day care and after school programmes for nearly 450 children.

Buffett, 86, is the world's fourth-richest person, worth US$76.2 billion according to Forbes magazine. He is donating virtually all of his fortune to charity.

Past auction winners have included hedge fund manager Ted Weschler, who paid a combined US$5.25 million to win two auctions.

He later became one of Buffett's investing deputies, and along with fellow deputy Todd Combs is likely to oversee Berkshire's stock investments after Buffett departs.

Berkshire has more than 90 businesses in the insurance, energy, industrial, railroad, retail and other sectors. Buffett owns about 18 per cent of the US$419 billion company.

The lunches that fetched US$3,456,789 remain the most expensive items sold on eBay where all proceeds went to charity.

Bidding moved online in 2003.

According to Glide, these bidders have won its auctions:

2000: Pete Budlong, US$25,000 2001: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, US$20,000

2002: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, US$25,000

2003: David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, US$250,100

2004: Jason Choo, Singapore, US$202,100

2005: Anonymous, US$351,100

2006: Yongping Duan, California, US$620,100

2007: Mohnish Pabrai, Guy Spier, Harina Kapoor, US$650,100

2008: Zhao Danyang, Pure Heart Asset Management, China, US$2,110,100

2009: Courtenay Wolfe, Salida Capital, Canada, US$1,680,300

2010: Ted Weschler, US$2,626,311

2011: Ted Weschler, US$2,626,411

2012: Anonymous, US$3,456,789

2013: Anonymous, US$1,000,100

2014: Andy Chua, Singapore, US$2,166,766

2015: Zhu Ye, Dalian Zeus Entertainment, China, US$2,345,678

2016: Anonymous, US$3,456,789

2017: Anonymous, US$2,679,001