The auction for the annual "Power Lunch with Warren" - where bidders compete to win a 45-minute lunch with the Oracle of Omaha - took place Friday night. And on Saturday, its organizers confirmed that the winning bidder - who has opted to remain anonymous, at least for now - will shell out $4,567,888 for the opportunity.
Not only is that a new record sum for the annual charity auction, but it surpassed the previous record by $1 million - or roughly 30%. Bidding starts at $25,000, and the auction has only finished below $2 million once since 2010, according to the AP.
Buffett's annual "Power Lunch with Warren" auction benefits an organization called Glide, which offers free meals, health care and other services to homeless and low-income individuals in San Francisco, and is an organization that Buffett's late wife used to support. It has brought it more than $30 million in donations over decades, as bids to the event have risen from just thousands of dollars to, now, millions. Gilde helps provide meals to the homeless in San Francisco, which are then ostensibly defecated on the streets of the city, as we observed in "Behold, The Shit Map".
Glide Chief Executive Officer Karen Hanrahan told Bloomberg: “A lot of the trend lines around homelessness, poverty and inequality are getting worse. The lines outside of our doors keep getting longer. The funds that we’ve raised with Warren Buffett have allowed us to be just responsive to the community and responsive to the needs of the city.”
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The lunch will be held at Smith & Wollensky, Buffett's favorite steakhouse in New York City. The winner can bring up to seven friends (split eight ways, that $4.6 million price tag comes to roughly $575,000 a head).
However, as WSJ's Jason Gay argues, if you've committed to shelling out all of this money, it might make more sense to go alone. After all, is it really worth taking the risk that one of you idiot friends might monopolize the conversation and waste all of your precious time with Buffett? Keep in mind that one previous winner, Ted Weschler, was offered a job at Berkshire by Buffett.
And though it's tempting to dismiss this year's winning bid as just one more example of the market froth that could potentially portend a turn in the business cycle, in at least one (albeit morbid) sense, we feel that hefty price tag can be justified. After all, nobody lives forever. And although Buffett is, by all accounts, in good health (despite subsisting on a diet of cheeseburgers and Coke), every 'lunch with Warren' is, well, one less 'lunch with Warren'.
Plus, after a few relatively quiet years for Berkshire, so far, 2019 has been an eventful one for the firm: The Kraft Heinz accounting debacle and Berkshire's decision to back Occidental's bid for Anadarko were both major business stories. And Buffett hasn't been stingy with granting interview requests, including a lengthy discussion at Berkshire's Omaha offices with three reporters from the FT.
So whoever the winning bidder may be, at least he or she will have plenty to talk about.