Record bid for Buffett lunch

Record bid for Buffett lunch
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First Published: Mon, Jul 02 2007. 01 06 AM IST
A lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett sold for $650,100 (approximately Rs2.7 crore) in an annual charity auction on EBay Inc., surpassing last year’s record of $620,100. Monish Pabrai, 43, managing partner of Pabrai Investment Fund in Irvine, California, and Guy Spier, who runs the Aquamarine Llc hedge fund, were the winners.
Pabrai put up about two-thirds of the bid and Spier the rest. Pabrai, Spier and six guests will get the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman’s undivided attention over lunch at New York’s Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Buffett, 76, the world’s third richest man, according to Forbes magazine, will devote two-and-a-half to three hours to the group. Virtually anything but specific stocks are fair game for conversation. “It will be a family meal with Uncle Warren,” said Pabrai, who plans to take his wife and two children.
Pabrai said he didn’t mind spending the money for the auction because he has learnt so much from Buffett about investing and life. “This is as close as I can come to paying off the tuition that’s due,” said Pabrai, who has unsuccessfully bid in the previous four Buffett auctions. He and Spier last year made a combined offer exceeding $500,000. Past winners include California investor Yong Ping Duan and David Einhorn, the 38-year-old founder of Greenlight Capital Llc.
Buffett auctions his time to benefit the San Francisco- based Glide Foundation, where his late wife, Susan Buffett, volunteered. The organization, founded by the Reverend Cecil Williams, provides food, health care, shelter and job training to the city’s poor. “I’m thrilled because this means that we touched the lives of more people, and they feel supported and that someone cares,” Williams said. “And that someone is Warren Buffett.”
In an interview earlier in the week, Buffett called Williams a “remarkable” minister. He has “lifted thousands and thousands of people from hopelessness into having a real life,” Buffett said. “Glide is a remarkable place.”
Since 2003, when San Jose, California-based EBay took over the bidding process from a live auctioneer, the lunches have raised $1.4 million for Glide. This year’s is the eighth auction. Three bidders drove up the price from $452,600 in the last 20 minutes of the auction, which closed on Saturday. The offers lingered at about $300,000 for two days before surpassing $400,000.
The auction began on June 25, with an opening bid of $25,000. All bidders were pre-qualified through online auction agency Kompolt. Smith & Wollensky will donate $10,000 for the right to host the event.
Buffett’s stake in Berkshire, almost a third of its shares, is valued at almost $49 billion. A year ago, he said he would gradually distribute 85% of his shares to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities. Eventually, he plans to donate all his shares in the investment firm.
“Americans are becoming more philanthropically aware,” he said, when asked why more people aren’t holding a similar charity auction. “I’ve heard from a lot of people since last year that they are making big plans.”
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First Published: Mon, Jul 02 2007. 01 06 AM IST