A chance to share a steak lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett ended with a mouth-watering $1.68-million bid.
Speculation is the winner was once again Chinese.
It was the second highest winning bid in the annual fundraiser's 10-year history. The global financial crisis was blamed for keeping the final tally 20 percent below last year.
This year's bidding began at $25,000 on eBay on June 21. Activity accelerated toward the end of the auction on June 26, with the top bid rising from $810,000 in the last two hours.
The identity of the winning bidder has not yet been revealed, but some observers are speculating the winner may be Chinese because they offered a bid of $1,235,578 in the last hour and "8" is regarded as a lucky number in China.
Denise Lamott, spokeswoman with the Glide Foundation, which receives the proceeds from the auction, was delighted with the "better-than-expected" results.
"Last year's bidding record was $2.11 million. Considering the current economic downturn, we had expected the highest price this year would be $1 million.
The result was much better than anticipated and we were quite satisfied," said Lamott.
The non-profit organization, based in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, offers housing, job training, health and child care, and meals for the poor. The nine previous auctions have raised more than $4.2 million for Glide.
The Glide Foundation revealed the Chinese had shown great interest in the auction this year.
Two Chinese business people paid $2.11 million last year and $620,100 in 2006 to win the chance to have lunch with Buffett.
Last year's winner Zhao Danyang, who runs Hong Kong-based Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund, collected his prize when he dined with Buffett last Wednesday.
As in recent years, the auction winner and up to seven friends joined Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse in New York City. Duan Yongping, the auction winner in 2006, jointly bid for the lunch with Zhao and enjoyed the dinner with Buffett once again.
Zhao, 37, said that he had been puzzled by some investment problems for years and could not find the answer in a young capital market like China.
In Zhao's opinion, Buffett, from a mature capital market and with experience in several business cycles, had insight into investment.
"It's not because you are not smart enough to solve the problems. It's because you haven't experienced enough," said Zhao.
Zhao said his puzzles were solved during the three-hour lunch and what he gained could not be valued in dollars and cents. Both Zhao and Duan said the lunch was worthwhile.
(China Daily 06/29/2009 page2)