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Buffett lunch gets $1.5 million bid on final day

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A bidder offered to pay $1,500,100 for a steak lunch with the billionaire investor Warren Buffett as the annual charity auction on eBay Inc's EBAY.O website entered its final hours.

Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett talks with a reporter at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha May 1, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The top offer soared more than $500,000 in just seven minutes of frenzied bidding on Friday morning.

The five-day auction ends at 10:30 p.m. EDT. The winner and up to seven friends will dine with the world’s third-richest person at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in midtown Manhattan.

Proceeds benefit the Glide Foundation, a nonprofit in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that offers meals, healthcare, child care, housing and job training for the poor and homeless. Smith & Wollensky is also donating $10,000.

Buffett began donating the lunches in 2000 after his first wife Susan introduced him to Glide and its founder, the Rev. Cecil Williams. The 10 prior auctions raised more than $5.9 million for Glide.

“I’m jumping for joy. There’s no doubt about it,” Williams, 80, said in an interview after bidding topped $1.5 million. “Warren Buffett understands Glide and he supports Glide. I said to him a week-and-a-half ago, ‘You’re such a good person,’ and he laughed and said, “Well you know, I’m trying, I’m trying.’”

Buffett’s office did not return a request for comment.

Glide plans to hold a “victory party” Friday night in San Francisco’s Ferry Building where about 200 people will watch the final hour of bidding.

The high bidder, whose identity is being kept anonymous, appears to be a proxy bidder. Such bidders tell eBay in advance how much they are willing to bid, and are automatically awarded the top bids if others bid less.

Between 8:33 and 8:40 EDT, a competing bidder submitted six bids, starting at $1 million and then rising in $100,000 increments, only to be topped by the current high bidder.

The highest bid in the 11th annual auction remains short of the previous record $2.11 million paid in 2008 by Zhao Danyang, a Hong Kong investor. Wealth manager Salida Capital Corp of Toronto won with a $1.68 million bid in 2009.

Buffett, 79, has built an estimated $47 billion fortune running Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.NBRKb.N, which operates about 80 businesses and has tens of billions of dollars of investments.

In 2006, Buffett pledged most of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Robert MacMillan

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