The Rising and Falling Price of Getting Lunch With Warren Buffett

This guy.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

It’s time again for that cherished yearly tradition of the ultra-wealthy: How much would you pay for lunch with Warren Buffett? For the 16th annual “Power of One Lunch,” which supports Glide, one of San Francisco’s largest antipoverty nonprofits, would-be diners have until 7:30 p.m. PST on Friday to submit their bids. The winner gets to break bread with the Oracle of Omaha and up to seven friends at New York City’s Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Already, the sum to beat is $1.23 million. If you’d like to try topping it, you can do so at the event’s eBay page here.

Chart by Alison Griswold. Data from Glide.

As you can see from the chart above (click to expand), the price of lunch with Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman and chief executive first skyrocketed above $1 million in 2008, and has stayed above that mark ever since. Ted Weschler, a two-time champion, reportedly parlayed his expensive repast into a Berkshire job. The high point came in 2012, when an anonymous bidder paid $3.5 million for the meal. Money from the Buffett lunch typically accounts for 8 to 10 percent of Glide’s total annual donations. “We’re very appreciative of his participation whenever we can get it,” says Janice Mirikitani, Glide’s co-founder. “All I can say is that we feel blessed every year that he participates with us. It’s phenomenal.”

Here at Moneybox, we’d like to advance a theory that aspiring Power of One diners generally fall into one of three categories. The first is financiers who probably could have met Buffett anyway, but were happy to pay for lunch via the Glide program, contribute to a good cause, and get some publicity to boot. We’ll guess that David Einhorn, founder of Greenlight Capital and 2003’s winner, falls in that group. Second, you have the unabashed Warren Buffett fanboys. These include Jason Choo (winner 2005), Yongping Duan (winner 2006), and Mohnish Pabrai (one of three winners in 2007), all of whom have spoken about their deep admiration for Buffett’s investing wisdom. Then, finally, you have the anonymous winners, including the mysterious person that paid that record $3.5 million sum. Who are they? We don’t know, but we’d guess they’re people from outside the world of finance, who kind of feel weird about their pricey desire to meet Buffett, but also aren’t going to let the opportunity pass them by. Should you fall into any of these categories, get to it! You’ve got just two and a half days left to bid.