Say Goodbye to This Grand Warren Buffett Tradition

The Glide Foundation, based in San Francisco, aims to further social justice, get people out of poverty, and change people’s lives. Super investor Warren Buffett’s late wife Susie was so impressed by Glide that she launched an annual auction to raise money for it — auctioning off a meal with her husband.

That was in 2000. Mrs. Buffett passed away in 2004, but her husband continued the tradition for many years. Now, he has said that 2022’s auction will be the last. Here’s a look at the interesting history of this tradition, at some of the winners, and at Buffett’s other charitable activities.

Image source: Getty Images.

Meals with Warren Buffett

The annual auction went on hiatus in 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic, but it returned this year. The 20th auction for Glide was conducted, as always, on eBay, and it concluded on June 17. The winning bids have risen significantly over the 20-plus years, with the last winner, in 2019, bidding $4.6 million. This year, though, that bid was nearly quadrupled, with the anonymous winner offering more than $19 million.

The folks at Glide note that the auctions have raised more than $53 million, supporting “transformative programs and services that lift people out of poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and advance equity through systems change.”

Buffett, who turns 92 in August, said in an interview with the organization:

It’s been nothing but good. We’ve raised money, but I’ve had a good time. I’ve met a lot of very interesting people from all over the world. … The one universal characteristic is that they have a good time, and they feel they’ve got their money’s worth. But the most important thing is they feel that that money is going to be put to very good uses. … And it translates into human beings finding that there is hope in life.

It’s interesting that Buffett has done more than just raise money for Glide. Just as he has put a lot of thought into how to build his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to last far into the future, Glide President Karen Hanrahan told Reuters, “[Buffett] has been a thought partner in thinking through Glide’s future, and how to set it up for the next 50 years.”

Winners of past auctions

This year’s winner remains, so far, anonymous, as have been many other past winners. Many are known, though. The Financial Post listed these winners, crediting Glide:

Year

Winner

Winning Bid

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

$2,110,100

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

$2,345,678

2016

Anonymous

$3,456,789

2017

Anonymous

$2,679,001

2018

Anonymous

$3,300,100

2019

Anonymous

$4,567,888

Source: The Financial Post.

Investors Spier and Pabrai have written and spoken about their 2007 lunch, saying that it was “worth every penny” and sharing some lessons learned, such as: “Approach everything with integrity,” “Get comfortable saying ‘no,'” and “Do what you love.”

Investor Weschler’s two lunches with Buffett led not only to some lessons learned, but also a new job, as Buffett took a liking to Weschler, thought he’d fit in well with Berkshire, and offered him a role investing some of Berkshire’s billions. Today, Weschler — along with Todd Combs, hired a bit before him — are Buffett’s investing lieutenants, now investing many billions of company dollars.

Buffett and charity

While this tradition is ending, it’s not the end for Buffett’s charitable activity. He has long been serious about philanthropy, and in 2010, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, launched The Giving Pledge — an organization aimed at inspiring billionaires to publicly commit to giving away at least half of their fortunes to charity. It has signed up about 263 of them, so far.

Buffett himself has a net worth recently estimated at $95 billion — but it would be much higher, had he not started giving away big chunks of it annually years ago. (He recently made his latest annual gift, of $4 billion, to several charities, including The Gates Foundation.) Buffett plans to give away 99% of his wealth, and in many recent years, he has been the largest charitable donor for the year. He also holds the record for lifetime giving — recently at some $48 billion — and has been called the biggest philanthropist of all time.

So while it may be a shame that the annual auctions for Glide will end, Buffett is still making the world a better place by putting his money to good use. As he’s said, “If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%.”

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Selena Maranjian has positions in Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool recommends eBay and recommends the following options: long January 2023 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2023 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2023 $265 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short July 2022 $57.50 calls on eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.