Prior to billionaire investor Warren Buffett auctioning off a private lunch in an effort to benefit the Glide Foundation, he was quite skeptical of the charity based out of San Francisco where his wife was a volunteer.
Before Susie Buffett passed away in 2004, she showed Warren all of the great work that Glide did for the homeless and poor, and this ultimately sold him on the organization. Since 2000, he has raised almost $16 million for the organization.
“It was one-on-one working with people society had given up on,” said Buffett. “And experience showed society was wrong to give up on those people.”
The lunch auction, in its 15th year, began on Sunday, June 1 and it has a minimum bid of $25,000 on eBay. The auction will end on Friday, June 6 at 9:30 PM Central daylight Time.
The Warren Buffett lunch auction has become one of the major money sources for Glide, which has an annual budget of $18 million. Janice Mirikitani and Rev. Cecil Williams, the cofounders of Glide, hope that the lunch auction will bring in another seven-figure payday, and they really appreciate the added exposure as well.
“I think it’s amazing to have Warren Buffett as an advocate,” said Mirikitani. The charity offers job training, housing support, rehabilitation, healthcare and meals to the homeless and poor.
The winner of last year’s auction won the bid at a relative bargain and only paid $1,000,100. Out of the previous five winters, four of them have paid over $2 million. The winner of the 2012 bid paid $3,456,798. To this day, it is currently the most expensive charity item sold on eBay.
Other charities have successfully used eBay in order to raise money, such as MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation, which has raised about $4 million since 2005.
Buffett confidently believes that this year’s auction will top 2013 – “I think we’ll beat it by quite a bit” – based on the prequalified bidder limits and what they have set for themselves.
Buffett really has no idea why people are willing to pay so much for a private luncheon with the CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, but he gives part of the credit to the Glide Foundation. The lunch itself will typically last for several hours, and Buffett does his best to make sure that all winners are satisfied.
There’s only one limit on the conversation: what Warren Buffett is thinking about investing in next. Any other topic is open for discussion, including investing philosophy from the billionaire, and the way he thinks about inheritance and his views on philanthropy.
“It goes all over the map,” said Buffett.
Smith and Wollensky steakhouse in New York City traditionally hosts the luncheon, and offers a donation of $10,000 to Glide every year for the honor of being the restaurant of choice for the event. There are some years where the winner chooses to remain anonymous, and when this happens the lunch will take place elsewhere.
Berkshire Hathaway owns over 80 subsidiaries, including companies in the clothing, jewelry, furniture, insurance and candy business, as well as corporate jet companies, restaurants and natural gas businesses. The investment company also owns shares in businesses like Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola and IBM.