Buffett lunch auction draws $2.61m bid, topping 2015 pace

New York - Billionaire Warren Buffett’s annual lunch auction drew a top offer exceeding $2m with more than half a day remaining in the fundraiser, beating last year’s pace.

The highest offer in the charity event was $2.61m as of 4:11 a.m. in San Francisco, according to EBay’s website. That compares with a winning bid of $2.35m in last year’s event.

The latest auction began on Sunday night and runs through 7:30 p.m. Friday, with the winner getting to bring seven friends to share a meal with the billionaire at New York’s Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Competition generally accelerates on the last day.

Buffett, 85, raised more than $20m in the first 16 years of the auction to benefit Glide. That San Francisco-based organization serves about 2 000 meals a day to the homeless, hosts support groups through its women’s centre for abuse victims and provides treatment for drug addiction.

The auction is "one of the most important ways of raising money that we have ever had," the Rev. Cecil Williams, a co-founder of Glide, said in a phone interview before bidding began.

Glide works "very hard to bring about a new kind of way of responding to people, and especially to people who are looked upon as homeless, people who are looked upon as not being a part of the community, those who are strangers, and those who fall through the cracks of society."

Glide was brought to Buffett’s attention by his first wife, Susan, a volunteer for the foundation. The billionaire pledged in 2006 to donate the majority of his fortune to charity, mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dignity, opportunity

"Glide is a bridge for thousands of people on the brink of despair, helping them achieve dignity and opportunity by providing them with basic services," Buffett said in a May statement about this year’s event.

"Their vital work has a direct and immediate impact."

Past auction winners have included hedge fund manager David Einhorn and Ted Weschler, who later join Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to help oversee investments.

Last year, Zhu Ye, chairperson of the Chinese online video game developer Dalian Zeus Entertainment, won the auction. The record was in 2012, when an anonymous bidder clinched the prize with a $3.46m offer.

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