June 1, 2019 / 3:33 PM / 6 months ago

Warren Buffett charity lunch fetches record $4.57 million winning bid

(Reuters) - An anonymous bidder has agreed to pay a record $4,567,888 at an annual charity auction to have a private lunch with Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, pauses while playing bridge as part of the company annual meeting weekend in Omaha, Nebraska U.S. May 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The winning bid, which was submitted during a five-day online auction on eBay that ended Friday night, was nearly one-third higher than the previous record $3,456,789 bids in both the 2012 and 2016 auctions.

Proceeds benefit the Glide Foundation, a charity in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that serves the poor, homeless or those battling substance abuse.

Buffett, 88, has raised about $34.2 million for Glide in 20 annual auctions, which began in 2000 and moved to eBay in 2003. His first wife Susan, who died in 2004, introduced him to Glide after volunteering for the charity.

“Mr. Buffett is thrilled. We just spoke with him,” Glide President Karen Hanrahan told Reuters after the auction ended. “Mr. Buffett is committed to continuing the auction as long as he’s able. He has been a thought partner in thinking through Glide’s future, and how to set it up for the next 50 years.”

The winning bidder and up to seven friends can dine at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Manhattan with Buffett, who says he will discuss anything apart from his next investments.

This year’s auction drew 18 bids from five bidders.

The top bid would also be enough to buy 15 Class A or 23,137 Class B shares of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire, whose more than 90 businesses include auto insurer Geico and BNSF railroad.

Past auction winners have included hedge fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital in 2003, and Ted Weschler, now one of Buffett’s portfolio managers at Berkshire, in 2010 and 2011.

Glide’s budget goes toward providing roughly 2,000 free meals a day, shelter, HIV and Hepatitis C tests, job training, and children’s daycare and after-school programs.

“What it means to us as an organization: It’s huge,” Hanrahan said, referring to the auction. “It’s going to help many many thousands of people in this city.”

According to Glide, these bidders have won its auctions:

2000: Pete Budlong, $25,000

2001: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, $20,000

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

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

2004: Jason Choo, Singapore, $202,100

2005: Anonymous, $351,100

2006: Yongping Duan, California, $620,100

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

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

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

2010: Ted Weschler, $2,626,311

2011: Ted Weschler, $2,626,411

2012: Anonymous, $3,456,789

2013: Anonymous, $1,000,100

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

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

2016: Anonymous, $3,456,789

2017: Anonymous, $2,679,001

2018: Anonymous, $3,300,100

2019: Anonymous, $4,567,888

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Paul Simao

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