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BW Businessworld

Buffett Lunch Sells...

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A bidder agreed to pay $1.68 million for a steak lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a charity auction completed Friday night, according to eBay Inc's website, where the bidding took place.

The winning bid in the 10th annual fund-raiser fell short of last year's record $2.11 million, paid by Hong Kong-based investor Zhao Danyang. The starting price was $25,000.

The identity of the winning bidder could not immediately be determined. EBay was not immediately available for comment. A call to Buffett was not immediately returned.

As in recent years, the winner and up to seven friends may dine with the world's second-richest person at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.

Zhao, who runs the Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund, had his lunch with Buffett on Wednesday.

The auction benefits the Glide Foundation, a nonprofit in San Francisco's Tenderloin district that offers housing, job training, health and child care, and meals for the poor.

Bidding activity accelerated toward the end of the auction, much as in past years, with the top bid rising from $810,000 over the last 2 hours. Observers had speculated that the global recession would keep the winning bid below last year's record.

The winning bid is the second highest ever paid for the lunch. Winning bidders agreed to pay $650,100 in 2007 and $620,100 in 2006.

The nine previous auctions had raised more than $4.2 million for Glide. Among the previous winners was the hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who bid $250,100 in 2003.

Buffett, 78, built his fortune through Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc, an insurance and investment company that has close to 80 businesses and tens of billions of dollars of investments.

In 2006, Buffett pledged most of his net worth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities. Forbes magazine in March estimated his fortune at $40 billion.

The auctions began in 2000 after Buffett was introduced to Glide by his first wife, Susie. The first three auctions were held live. Winning bids soared when they moved online in 2003.