Every year going back to 2000, Warren Buffett has participated in a charity auction with proceeds going to Glide, a charitable organization in San Francisco. His participation entails one of the most valuable commodities there is in the business world: lunch. And on Friday night, an anonymous individual placed the winning bid on a lunch with Warren Buffett – for a numerically pleasing $3,456,789.
Whomever this anonymous bidder is, you know he or she isn't too concerned about breaking records, since, if just one more dollar had been added to that figure, it would have become the highest figure ever paid for a single charity item on eBay. The other item to hold that distinction? That would be… lunch with Warren Buffett, which also went to an anonymous bidder for $3,456,789 in 2012. In case you're interested, here's how all the lunch-with-Warren auctions have gone since the tradition was started in 2000 by Buffett's now-late wife, courtesy of Glide:
2000: Pete Budlong, $25,000
2001: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, $20,000
2002: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, $25,000
2003: David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, $250,100
2004: Jason Choo, Singapore, $202,100
2005: Anonymous, $351,100
2006: Yongping Duan, California, $620,100
2007: Mohnish Pabrai, Guy Spier, Harina Kapoor, $650,100
2008: Zhao Danyang, Pure Heart Asset Management, China, $2,110,100
2009: Courtenay Wolfe, Salida Capital, Canada, $1,680,300
2010: Ted Weschler, $2,626,311
2011: Ted Weschler, $2,626,411
2012: Anonymous, $3,456,789
2013: Anonymous, $1,000,100
2014: Andy Chua, Singapore, $2,166,766
2015: Zhu Ye, Dalian Zeus Entertainment Co, China, $2,345,678
2016: Anonymous, $3,456,789
Just imagine that 16 years ago, you could get lunch with Warren Buffett for just twenty grand – talk about inflation. As for what the lunch actually consists of, the anonymous winner and as many as seven friends will enjoy a meal at Manhattan's Smith & Wollensky steakhouse with Buffett, and the only conversational taboo is future investments planned by Buffett (whether or not the lunch may prove ultimately profitable in some other way is probably a matter of luck).
Even if the lunch doesn't produce any hot stock tips, it's money well spent, going toward Glide's mission of providing medical service, food, and after school educational programs for those who can't afford to pay for the services for themselves or for their children. Buffett evidently agrees, since he's consistently put himself on the auction block for 16 years, having raised almost $24 million for the charity since the project started. Rev. Cecil Williams is the co-founder of Glide and the pastor of the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, going back 50 years, and he's cited by Reuters as confirming the importance of these Buffett lunches to the charity, providing as they do a consistent cash infusion going towards their yearly budget that's now at about $17 million. Plus, there's a great steak in the bargain, too.