Warren Buffett’s annual lunch auction had less than a minute to go and still wasn’t halfway to last year’s record of more than $2.6 million.
Then bidding almost tripled from $1.23 million seconds from the end of the weeklong auction on June 8, as Buffett’s event set a record for a third straight year with the total in seven consecutive numbers: $3,456,789. In San Francisco, the Rev. Cecil Williams of the Glide Foundation, the beneficiary, rejoiced with about 500 people. Screams drowned out the clinking of flutes filled with Champagne or cider.
“We just had a most amazing, shocking experience occur in our great city,” Williams, 82, said later that night in a statement. “I am extremely grateful to my friend Warren Buffett for his exceptional commitment.”
The annual auction on EBay Inc.’s website attracted 106 bids. The winner, who wasn’t identified, and seven companions get to dine with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.
The event has brought in more than $14.6 million in the past 13 years for Glide, which serves meals to the needy and runs a church in San Francisco’s blighted Tenderloin district. Last year’s record take was $2.63 million.
“You change lives,” said Buffett, 81, addressing Glide workers, volunteers and donors in a video played at the gathering before the bidding ended. “I congratulate you.”
Buffett and Williams were introduced by the billionaire’s late first wife, Susan. Williams had joined the Glide Memorial Church as a minister in 1963 and along with volunteers transformed the congregation.
A Proven Process
“They felt that every human being had a potential, no matter what their circumstances,” Buffett said in a video posted on the auction website. “This is a proven process, that a combination of love and time and energy and resources can produce a different human being.”
Glide, which is known for its music-filled Sunday service, served about 1 million meals to the poor last year. It also provides health services.
“He has been here just once from what I know but he digested it,” Williams said of Buffett, in an interview.
Buffett is chairman and chief executive officer of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. He earned his fortune and reputation investing in out-of-favor stocks, transforming the firm from a failing textile mill into a $200 billion seller of insurance, energy and freight hauling. He has pledged almost all of his wealth to charity. Susan Buffett, who died in 2004, was a volunteer for Glide.
“She liked the idea of giving away, we both agreed on giving away all the money,” Buffett said June 5 at an event in Washington. “She would have liked the idea of giving away more of it earlier and I felt that I was going to be a better compounding machine than most places and that there would be a whole lot more to give away later on.”
Past auction winners include hedge fund managers David Einhorn and Ted Weschler, who subsequently was hired by Buffett after his record-setting bids in 2010 and 2011.
Lunch With Warren Buffett Results:
Year Winner Winning Bid 2000 Anonymous $25,000 2001 Anonymous $18,000 2002 Anonymous $25,000 2003 David Einhorn $250,100 2004 Jason Choo $202,100 2005 Anonymous $351,100 2006 Yongping Duan $620,100 2007 Mohnish Pabrai, Guy Spier, Harina Kapoor $650,100 2008 Zhao Danyang $2,110,100 2009 Salida Capital $1,680,300 2010 Ted Weschler $2,626,311 2011 Ted Weschler $2,626,411 2012 Anonymous $3,456,789