Buffett Charity Lunch Auction Enters Final Hours

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The annual charity auction of a private lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett entered its final hours Friday with the rare opportunity still available for the relative bargain price of less than a million dollars -- although that wasn't likely to last.

The high bid on the eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY  ) auction Friday morning was $775,100, but the biggest bids often aren't made until just before the end, which was scheduled for 9:30 p.m. CDT.

The private audience with one of the most-successful investors and philanthropists ever drew bids of more than $2 million in each of the past five years, including last year's record-setting winning bid of $3,456,789.

All proceeds go to the Glide Foundation, which helps the poor and homeless in San Francisco. The nonprofit relies on the auction to provide a significant chunk of its $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 Rev. Cecil Williams, Glide's founder.

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 $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 (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) chairman and CEO won't talk about potential investments.

The owners of New York's Smith & Wollensky steakhouse have again donated $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 favorite 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 $15 million for Glide with these auctions over the years. He has supported Glide ever since his late first wife, Susan, introduced him to Williams.

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 and become contributing members of society again.

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. It also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) .


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