The auction for a power lunch with Buffett hit $2.1 million over the weekend -- more than double the top bid during any charity bidding war in eBay's colorful history. Zhao Danyang, fund manager for the Hong Kong-based Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund, outlasted rival bidders with his offer of $2,110,100 for a lunch with Buffett.
Danyang will be able to take as many as seven friends to break out the steak knives with Buffett at a New York City Smith & Wollensky chophouse. Those purveyors of prime cuts can get pretty pricey, but obviously not that expensive.
Penny-pinching pundits will shake their heads. You don't need to pay a king's ransom to receive of Buffett's sage investing advice. Buy a share of Berkshire Hathaway -- the cheaper Class B shares will run you roughly $4,000 -- and you can attend the annual shareholder meetings, where Buffett talks stocks for hours.
If you can't afford the cover charge of actual ownership, or you lack the motivation to trek out to Nebraska, rally around the Web. All of Buffett's annual shareholder letters are available for free from his company's website.
So what will Zhao be getting, beyond the not-so-free publicity? Will the two discuss PetroChina
China has certainly come a long way, so perhaps a Chinese growth fund manager's willingness to outspend everyone else for lunch with Buffett demonstrates that the nation's art of investing has also evolved. Hong Kong's mavens have never gotten as frenzied as mainland traders, who were snapping up Shanghai shares regardless of fundamentals. Still, a little Buffett can go a long way in a rapidly emerging marketplace.
One of the most encouraging signs I noticed last month came when China Finance Online
So here's a toast to Zhao, Buffett, and the Glide Foundation charity that will benefit from the auction's record-breaking proceeds. We may scoff at the $2.1 million that Zhao paid, but even naysayers might envy the meaty wisdom that Buffett will dispense between bites.
Who knows? In a decade or two, maybe a lunch with Zhao himself will draw top dollar in a charity auction.
Can't spring a for power lunch with Buffett? How about a free Buffett buffet?