By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – An auction for well-heeled fans of Warren Buffett to eat lunch with the billionaire in support of a San Francisco charity that helps the homeless and impoverished got off to a fast start, with bidding quickly hitting seven figures.
The top bid was $1 million as of 1 p.m. EDT on Monday, and had been made within two minutes of the auction’s Sunday night launch.
Bids often surge near the end of the eBay auction, which concludes on Friday at 10:30 p.m. EDT.
Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, has raised $23.6 million in 17 years of auctions for Glide.
That included $3,456,789 from last year’s winner, a woman who chose to remain anonymous, tying a record set in 2012.
Other winners have included Ted Weschler, a hedge fund manager who paid $5.25 million to win two auctions and later became one of Buffett’s investing deputies at Berkshire.
Glide uses its $18 million annual budget to provide more than 750,000 free meals, emergency shelter for 8,500 people, 2,600 HIV and Hepatitis C tests and day care and after school programs for nearly 450 children.
Located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, Glide was co-founded and is led by the Rev. Cecil Williams, the 87-year-old pastor emeritus of the affiliated Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, and his wife Janice Mirikitani.
Buffett got involved with Glide after his first wife, Susan, became a volunteer, and continued after her 2004 death. He remarried in 2006.
He is also donating virtually all of his wealth to several charities. Forbes magazine on Monday estimated his net worth at $74.9 billion.
Buffett will dine with the auction winner and up to seven guests at the Smith & Wollensky steak house in Manhattan. He has said all topics are fair game except where he will invest next.
According to Glide, these bidders won its past auctions:
2000: Pete Budlong, $25,000
2001: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, $20,000
2002: Jim Halperin and Scott Tilson, $25,000
2003: David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital,…