Investor Warren Buffett took claim to another record last week when an anonymous bidder offered $2.63 million in an online auction for the privilege of having lunch with him for the benefit of charity. eBay officials were quoted as saying it was "the largest ever single auction for charity that's been sold on eBay" in its 15-year history.
Ever since Buffett began holding the yearly lunches back in 2000, he has raised $8.56 million for the Glide Foundation in San Francisco, a nonprofit agency that helps the poor.
This year's bidding started at $25,000 -- about the winning bid in some of the early years -- and ended after 77 bids. So far, the winner, who is allowed to bring seven guests to the lunch, remains unknown. The lunch is held each spring at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.
Three times in the past, the winning bidder has remained anonymous. Usually the bidders have revealed their names. At least four of the winning bidders over the years have come from outside the U.S.
Past Winners Winning Bid
2000 Former Dot commer, $25,000
2001 Anonymous $18,000
2002 Edward Jones and Co $25,000
and 2 Anonymous
2003 David Eihorn, Greenlight Capital $250,100
2004 Jason Choo, Singapore $202,100
2005 Anonymous $351,100
2006 Yongping Duan, California $620,000
2007 Mohnish Pabrai, Harina Kapoor $650,100
2008 Zhoa Danyang, China $2,100,100
2009 Salida Capital Corp. of Toronto $1,680,300
2010 Anonymous $2,630,000
For more about past luncheons, here are some excerpts from Andrew Kilpatrick's 2010 edition of his biography~ Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett:
Each year, Buffett hosts a charity lunch in New York at the Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse. The beneficiary’s San Francisco’s Glide Foundation, which serves the homeless. Lunch goes to the highest bidder. In 2009, Chinese businessman Zhao Danyang paid $2.1 million for the privilege of breaking bread with Buffett.
Buffett told Liz Claman of Fox Business Network that he could buy about 425,000 of his normal $5 meals for the same amount.
Smith & Wollensky General Manager Tom Hart has worked at the restaurant since 1977, and is not easily impressed by fame. He has seen any number of celebrities come and go. Heroes from not only baseball but also football, basketball, and hockey worlds visit often. Politicians and actors also commonly dine there (including Derek Jeter).
One particular day, a world-famous movie star arrived. It was the glamorous
Sophia Loren. “The table next to hers got quiet and then the whole restaurant went quiet,” recalled Hart. Then one day, Buffett walked in for his charity lunch. The restaurant fell completely spellbound.
“In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hart says. The unassuming
Fellow from Omaha topped the famous star.
Only Buffett, Hart said, can turn more heads than Sophia Loren.