US$1m bid for lunch with Warren Buffett, down from US$3.4m
Associated Press in Omaha, United States
The annual charity auction of a private lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett went for just more than US$1 million - a bargain price compared to past years for an opportunity to sit down with one of the world's most successful philanthropists.
An anonymous donor had the high bid of US$1,000,100 when the bidding ended on eBay. The private audience with Buffett drew bids of more than US$2 million in each of the past five years, including last year's record-setting winning bid of US$3,456,789.
In 2008, Chinese hedge fund manager Zhao Danyang won it for US$2.11 million.
All proceeds go to the Glide Foundation, which helps the poor and homeless in San Francisco. The charity relies on the auction to provide a significant chunk of its US$17 million annual budget.
"It means a lot to us to make sure we continue meeting the needs of the people who need it most," said the Reverend Cecil Williams, Glide's founder.
Glide and Williams were introduced to Buffett, 82, the world's third-richest man, by his first wife, Susan, who was a volunteer for the group.
Last year's Buffett lunch was the most-expensive charity item ever sold on eBay. The most expensive item ever sold on eBay was a jet that drew US$4.9 million in 2001, eBay spokeswoman Karen Sayah said.
Buffett said he will spend several hours discussing whatever the winner wants to talk about, except that Berkshire Hathaway's chairman and CEO won't talk about potential investments.
The owners of New York's Smith & Wollensky steakhouse have again donated US$10,000 to Glide, so they can host the meal with Buffett. But for the past three years the winners have chosen to remain anonymous, and they dined with Buffett at one of his favourite Omaha steak restaurants.
Since 2006, Buffett has been gradually giving away his fortune. He plans to eventually divide most of his shares of Berkshire stock between five charitable foundations, with the largest chunk going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Buffett has raised nearly US$15 million for Glide with these auctions over the years.
Glide is marking its 50th anniversary this year, and Buffett said he believes the charity does a remarkable job helping people the world has written off find hope.
Buffett's Berkshire owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including clothing, furniture and jewelry firms. Its insurance, utility and railroad businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg