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Buffett Lunch Auction Raises Record $2.63 Million for Charity

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Warren Buffett’s annual charity lunch auction raised a record $2.63 million on the final day of the weeklong contest after the bidder who’d already won offered more cash to set the mark.

The revised winning bid for a steakhouse meal with the 80-year-old billionaire beat by $100 the record set last year by an unidentified donor. This year’s contest is the 12th benefiting San Francisco’s Glide charity. The victorious bidder, who had won yesterday’s auction earlier with a pledge of $2.35 million, wasn’t immediately identified, said Denise Lamott, a Glide spokeswoman.

“This money will go to those who are in deep distress,” Rev. Cecil Williams, Glide’s founder, said at an event hosted by the charity last night in San Francisco. “Thank you to Warren Buffett and to the bidders.” The auction is held on EBay Inc.’s website.

Buffett attracts tens of thousands of admirers to Omaha, Nebraska, each year for meetings of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. There, shareholders line up for hours to get a seat in a basketball arena where Buffett fields questions on finance, public policy and life. The winner of the auction gets to meet Buffett at New York’s Smith & Wollensky steakhouse and has free rein to steer the table talk.

“I’d love to be a bidder, but if I did, my kids would be going to community college,” said David Rolfe, who attended the Berkshire meeting in April as chief investment officer of Wedgewood Partners Inc. The firm oversees $1 billion.

Past winners have said they were motivated to bid by Buffett’s stature and the charitable cause that their funds support. Greenlight Capital Inc.’s David Einhorn, who won the 2003 auction with a $250,100 bid, said at the time he wanted to “learn from the master.” Guy Spier of Aquamarine Funds LLC has said he has used his recognition as winner in 2007 to open doors to new business contacts.

Millions for Glide

Glide, a favorite charity of Buffett’s late first wife, has garnered almost $11 million since the first auction in 2000 went for $25,000. Courtenay Wolfe of Canada’s Salida Capital led a group that paid $1.68 million to win in 2008. Last year’s winner has remained anonymous.

The winner can bring as many as seven friends to the lunch.

Buffett rose to prominence through five decades of investing success. He accumulated the world’s third-largest personal fortune by picking stocks and making takeovers for Omaha-based Berkshire. Buffett has said that 99 percent of his wealth will go to philanthropy within 10 years of his death.

Glide says it serves almost 1 million meals annually to the homeless and poor. Susan Buffett, who was married to Buffett until her death in 2004, volunteered at the charity.

“You really want to make your charitable dollar go as far as it can,” Buffett said in an interview last year. “When you get a proven quantity like Glide, and you get the people running it who you watch do it for 40 years and do it magnificently, they are the ones, in my view, to support.”

Glide Lunch With Warren Buffett Results:

Year Winner Winning Bid 2000 Anonymous $25,000 2001 Anonymous $18,000 2002 Anonymous $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, China $2,110,100 2009 Salida Capital, Canada $1,680,300 2010 Anonymous $2,626,311 2011 Anonymous $2,626,411

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