Image: Warren Buffett
Nati Harnik  /  AP
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett eats ice cream at a Dairy Queen diner in Omaha, Neb., in a 2002 file photo. Zhao Danyang of China is paying more than $2 million to have lunch with him. The money goes to charity.
By AP Business Writer
updated 6/28/2008 10:31:42 PM ET 2008-06-29T02:31:42

A Chinese investment fund manager won the chance to have lunch with billionaire Warren Buffett by bidding $2.1 million in the most expensive charity auction ever held on eBay.

Zhao Danyang of the Hong Kong-based Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund won the auction, which ended Friday evening with a bid of $2,110,100.

A spokeswoman for the Glide Foundation, which receives all the proceeds from the auction, identified the winner Saturday.

It appears that Zhao and Buffett share a similar investment philosophy. But Zhao could not be reached Saturday, and no one answered the phone at Buffett's Omaha office.

The auction will provide a significant boost to Glide, which provides social services to the poor and homeless in San Francisco. The foundation operates on a $12 million annual budget, spokeswoman Denise Lamott said.

"It almost feels like a miracle," Glide's founder Reverend Cecil Williams said in a statement. "We are amazed and ready to continue our work of breaking the cycles of poverty."

Last year's lunch brought in $650,100.

'Absolutely unbelievable'
A group of Glide staff members and supporters gathered in a small hotel ballroom Friday to watch the auction results. Lamott said there were shouts of celebration when the bids topped $1 million.

"It was absolutely unbelievable," Lamott said.

Zhao and up to seven friends will dine with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York City whenever the two men can schedule it. Last year's winners collected their prize only Wednesday.

The investment philosophy Zhao's fund describes on its Web site is similar to Buffett's approach of finding companies with an enduring competitive advantage that are selling for significantly less then they are worth.

Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is primarily known for his investing success. Berkshire owns more than 60 subsidiaries including insurance, clothing, furniture, jewelry and candy companies, restaurants, natural gas and corporate jet firms and has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Giving away his fortune
But Buffett is also known for his philanthropy.

In 2006, he announced his plan to give away the bulk of his nearly $49 billion fortune over time. Most of his shares of Berkshire stock will go to five charitable foundations, with the largest going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Lamott said eBay officials confirmed that this year's lunch with Buffett was the most expensive charity item the site has ever sold.

Previously, the most expensive charity item ever sold on eBay was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle autographed by celebrities that Jay Leno offered in 2005 for tsunami relief. It brought $800,100.

Buffett has been auctioning off lunches online for six years but began auctioning the lunches for Glide off-line in 2000. He offers only one lunch a year.

Williams called Buffett's dedication to the charity lunches amazing.

"Thank you, Warren Buffett, for your deep compassion and sensitivity that empowers us to transform the lives of so many people in need," Williams said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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