REUTERS: An anonymous bidder has agreed to pay a record US$4,567,888 at an annual charity auction to have a private lunch with Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
The winning bid, which was submitted during a five-day online auction on eBay that ended Friday (May 31) night, was nearly one-third higher than the previous record US$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 US$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.
"M. 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, US$25,000
2001: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, US$20,000
2002: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, US$25,000
2003: David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, US$250,100
2004: Jason Choo, Singapore, US$202,100
2005: Anonymous, US$351,100
2006: Yongping Duan, California, US$620,100
2007: Mohnish Pabrai, Guy Spier, Harina Kapoor, US$650,100
2008: Zhao Danyang, Pure Heart Asset Management, China, US$2,110,100
2009: Courtenay Wolfe, Salida Capital, Canada, US$1,680,300
2010: Ted Weschler, US$2,626,311
2011: Ted Weschler, US$2,626,411
2012: Anonymous, US$3,456,789
2013: Anonymous, US$1,000,100
2014: Andy Chua, Singapore, US$2,166,766
2015: Zhu Ye, Dalian Zeus Entertainment Co, China, US$2,345,678
2016: Anonymous, US$3,456,789
2017: Anonymous, US$2,679,001
2018: Anonymous, US$3,300,100
2019: Anonymous, US$4,567,888