OMAHA, Neb. — Used car sales usually don’t warrant much fanfare, but the rules change when billionaire investor Warren Buffett is the one selling the car.
New York City businessman Bill Zanker sent out a news release Monday announcing his plans to pick up the car he bought last fall from Buffett in an online charity auction and hold a news conference.
Zanker didn’t count on Buffett’s reluctance to turn the delivery of his 2001 Lincoln Town Car into a media event.
“I timed it wrong,” Zanker said from the Omaha airport Tuesday. “I should have called his office first.”
Zanker also struck out when he offered to donate $2 million to charity if Buffett would agree to speak for 30 minutes at one of the real-estate-and-wealth seminars his business, The Learning Annex, holds.
“He said he respectfully declined,” Zanker said. “He likes teaching people, but he likes doing it when he has his annual meeting.”
The dollars probably didn’t matter much to Buffett either, because he still holds about $49.5 billion worth of stock in his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., even though he announced plans last summer to give away most of his fortune over time.
A call to Buffett’s office was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
Zanker’s seminars have featured other big-name speakers, such as developer Donald Trump, who receives $1.5 million.
Zanker said Buffett could have become the highest-paid speaker, but the Oracle of Omaha didn’t want that title.
“He said he’s going to let Donald Trump remain in first place on speaking fees,” Zanker said.
But Zanker said it was still worth it to pay $73,200 for the car — Kelly Blue Book value $11,200 — because he got to visit with Buffett for about 45 minutes.
The biggest lesson Zanker said he learned from his meeting with Buffett was to be passionate about what you do in life. Zanker said Buffett told him that he looks for business owners who are passionate about their businesses when he’s shopping for companies.
Zanker previously paid $60,000 for a lunch with Rupert Murdoch, during which, Zanker said, the media mogul told him he should offer his seminars in China.
Last June, someone paid $620,100 in an eBay auction to dine with Buffett in New York, with the proceeds going to charity. The lunch was the second-most expensive charity item sold on eBay, according to an eBay spokeswoman.
The proceeds of the car sale went to Girls Inc., a national nonprofit organization that offers recreational and educational programs to girls. Buffett’s daughter, Susie, sits on the organization’s board of directors.
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