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Warren Buffett charity lunch already fetching US$1m at auction
[NEW YORK] An online auction for the right to dine with billionaire investor Warren Buffett and raise money for a San Francisco charity has started strongly, with the top bid surpassing US$1 million in less than a day.
Buffett has raised US$17.8 million in 15 prior annual auctions for Glide, a charity in San Francisco's Tenderloin district that provides food, health care, rehabilitation and other services for the poor and homeless.
As of 2.30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT) Monday, the top bid was US$1,000,100 in the eBay auction, which ends at 10.30 pm EDT Friday (0230 GMT Saturday).
That bid matches the seventh-highest amount ever paid, which occurred in 2013, and may go higher because bids often soar in the last hour. The auction began Sunday night, with a US$25,000 minimum bid. "We're very happy, very happy," the Rev Cecil Williams, the co-founder of Glide, said in a phone interview. "We expect the bidding to take off, but US$1 million coming this early is somewhat surprising." This year's winner can bring up to seven friends to dine with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Manhattan.
Some past winners chose to dine at a steakhouse in Omaha, Nebraska, where Mr Buffett runs Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Last year's winner, Andy Chua of Singapore, bid US$2,166,766. The record bid, in 2012, was US$3,456,789, submitted anonymously.
One winner, Ted Weschler, ended up working for Mr Buffett as a Berkshire portfolio manager after paying a combined US$5.25 million to win the 2010 and 2011 auctions.
The auctions began in 2000 after Mr Buffett was introduced to Glide by his first wife, Susan, who died in 2004. "Nobody who's donated to Glide has ever felt short-changed,"Mr Buffett said in a statement last month.
Rev Williams, a community leader and pastor at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, said he visited Mr Buffett two weeks ago in Omaha to discuss Glide's work. "We want to empower our people and find resources to help us pull this off, and touch the lives of people who are hurting most," Rev Williams said.
Buffett's involvement helps, he added. "When Buffett speaks, people listen," Rev Williams said. "He is a man of deep conviction." Buffett is worth about US$70.4 billion, making him the world's fourth richest person, Forbes magazine said on Monday.