There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but $1.5 million? That’s the average paid to dine with Warren Buffett in his annual auction to raise money for charity. Bidding for this year’s lunch, which the 91-year-old Buffett says will be his last, ends on June 17. As of June 16, the leading bid on eBay currently exceeds $3 million. Since starting the lunch tradition in 2000, the Berkshire Hathaway
chairman and CEO has raised close to $35 million, with proceeds going to the Glide Foundation, a center promoting social justice and pathways out of poverty. Winners can bring up to seven guests for lunch with Buffett, usually at a steakhouse in New York.
The long line of winners stress that paying up delivers great value, with lasting lessons about investing and life. Examples are investors Mohnish Pabrai and Guy Spier, who together won the Buffett lunch in 2007 for $650,100. About his time with Buffett, Pabrai told me: “Warren’s focus at these lunches is to make sure the winners think they got a bargain. He tries to set no time limits and answers questions in ways likely to have life changing impacts on the winners. It is the best $650,000 we ever spent. Massive bang for the buck.” Spier offered this thoughtful reflection: “Lunch with Warren was transformational: It taught me that I had to stop trying to be Warren Buffett and instead become the best possible version of myself”. While Buffett promises to end the lunch auction after this year, it’s a tradition worth keeping. Warren got his inspiration for such charitable creativity from his late wife, Susie, and you can be sure she’d want it to go on. Logical successors are Buffett’s three children, particularly Berkshire board members Howard and Susan. People may not bid millions of dollars to break bread with the famed investor’s offspring, at least not at first, but that was true of the early Buffett lunches. The first three went for five figures ($20,000-$25,000), the next six for six figures ($250,000-$650,000), and it wasn’t until year eight that the winning bid broke $1 million. The Buffett children certainly have their father’s values, along with their mother’s virtue of charitable gene …