Cost to lunch with Warren Buffett: USD 3.5 million

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The cost to dine with investor Warren Buffett has apparently spiked in value, with one deep-pocketed bidder forking over nearly USD 3.5 million during a charity auction.

The annual auction for a private lunch with the Nebraska billionaire closed following a flurry of activity in the final hours last night. In the end, the highest bid was a record-breaking USD 3,456,789.

The auction benefits the Glide Foundation, which helps the homeless in San Francisco. Buffett has raised more than USD 11.5 million for the group in 13 past auctions.

The event provides a significant portion of Glide's roughly USD 17 million annual budget that pays for social services to the poor and homeless.

"We just had a most amazing, shocking experience occur in our great city," Glide's founder, the Rev. Cecil Williams, said in a statement on Friday night. "We are shouting, dancing, rejoicing and celebrating."

The organization said Friday's winning bidder wished to remain anonymous. Williams said 10 people actively engaged in bidding.

Buffett became one of the world's richest men while building Berkshire Hathaway into a conglomerate. But he says most of the questions he gets at the lunches aren't about investing.

As in past auctions, the bids didn't reach astronomical levels until close to the end. Within the final hour of the auction's 9:30 p.m. CDT on Friday (0800 IST today) closing, bids jumped from USD 1 million to the final USD 3.46 million.

Buffett has supported the San Francisco organization ever since his late first wife, Susan, introduced him to Williams. Buffett says Williams is a key reason why Glide has been able to help so many people after the world had given up on them.

"He's changed thousands of lives that would not have been changed otherwise," Buffett said before the bidding closed.

The previous four winning bids have all exceeded $2 million with records set every year. Last year's winner, hedge fund manager Ted Weschler, paid USD 2,626,411. In fact, Weschler paid nearly USD 5.3 million to win both the 2010 and 2011 auctions, and he wound up getting hired by Buffett last year to help manage Berkshire's investment portfolio.

Buffett says he doesn't expect to find another new hire through the auction. Buffett's business brilliance and remarkable record of investment success as Berkshire's chairman and chief executive is a big part of the draw for bidders, though he won't talk about potential investments.

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