By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A wealthy person has bid a record $19 million to eat lunch with Warren Buffett, in the 21st and final time that the billionaire businessman auctioned a private lunch to benefit a San Francisco charity.
The winning bid at the eBay auction, which ended on Friday, far surpassed the previous record of $4.57 million paid in 2019 by cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun.
Proceeds benefit Glide, a nonprofit in San Francisco's Tenderloin district that helps the poor, homeless or those battling substance abuse. Glide offers meals, shelter, HIV and hepatitis C tests, job training and children's programs.
This year's winner chose to remain anonymous. An eBay spokeswoman said the lunch was the most expensive item ever sold on the company's website to benefit charity.
Buffett, 91, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, raised about $53.2 million for Glide in the 21 auctions, which began in 2000.
“It's been nothing but good,” Buffett said in a statement. “I've met a lot of interesting people from all over the world. The one universal characteristic is that they feel the money is going to be put to very good uses.”
No auctions were held in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Buffett began supporting Glide after his first wife, Susan, introduced him to the charity, where she had been volunteering.
Susan Buffett died in 2004.
Buffett has pledged to give away nearly all of his fortune. Buffett was worth $93.4 billion on Friday, ranking seventh worldwide, according to Forbes magazine.
This year's auction winner and up to seven guests will join Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Manhattan.
Buffett will talk about almost anything, but not where he may invest next.
Berkshire owns dozens of companies including the BNSF railroad, Geico car insurance, energy, manufacturing and retail businesses, and stocks such as Apple Inc and Bank of America Corp.
Buffett still owns nearly 16% of the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate, despite having donated more than half of his shares since 2006, including $4 billion on June 14.
According to Glide, these bidders have won its auctions:
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,
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,
2016: Anonymous, $3,456,789
2017: Anonymous, $2,679,001
2018: Anonymous, $3,300,100
2019: Justin Sun, $4,567,888
2020-2021: No auctions held
2022: Anonymous, $19,000,100
* later became a Berkshire Hathaway portfolio manager
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio, Clarence Fernandez and Frances Kerry)