Warren Buffett’s charity auction, in which bidders vie for a chance to dine with the billionaire, drew a top offer of more than $100,000 as a former winner predicted the fundraiser would set a fourth straight record.
Bidding started at $25,000 in the 14th annual auction and climbed to $130,500 at 8:43 a.m. in New York, according to the event page on EBay Inc.’s website. The top offer stood at $40,000 just 47 minutes earlier.
Buffett, 82, who earned his fortune and reputation by investing in out-of-favor stocks, has helped raise more than $14 million for San Francisco’s Glide Foundation in the past 13 years. Last year’s auction brought in $3.46 million as the amount almost tripled in the last minute of bidding. It was 32 percent more than 2011’s winning offer.
“The trajectory will keep moving upwards simply because the total number of lunches left keeps going down every year,” Mohnish Pabrai, who was part of a group that paid $650,100 in 2007, said in a telephone interview from Irvine, California. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it went over $4 million.”
The event concludes at 10:30 p.m. New York time June 7. The winner and seven companions get to dine with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.
Breaking bread with Buffett is akin to dining with a historical figure such as Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein, said Pabrai, who manages about $600 million in assets. Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s chairman and chief executive officer, transformed his company into a $280 billion owner of units that sell insurance and electricity, haul freight and manufacture products including chemicals and construction materials.
Buffett’s annual meetings for Berkshire fill up a basketball arena in Omaha, Nebraska, as he answers questions on finance, public policy and life. The world’s third-richest man, he has pledged his wealth to charity. He completed treatment in September for stage 1 prostate cancer.
Buffett has had lunch with last year’s winner, who chose to remain anonymous, the billionaire’s assistant said in an e-mail. He hired the winner of the 2010 and 2011 auctions, former hedge- fund manager Ted Weschler, to help oversee Berkshire’s investments.
Glide was brought to Buffett’s attention by his first wife, Susan, a volunteer for the charity. Led by the Rev. Cecil Williams, the foundation runs a church in San Francisco’s blighted Tenderloin district and provides meals and health services to the poor.
“It takes people who have hit bottom and brings them back,” Buffett said in a statement posted on EBay’s auction website. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
Glide has an annual budget of about $17 million, Williams said in a phone interview.
–With assistance from Noah Buhayar and Zachary Tracer in New York. Editor: Dan Reichl