• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Marc Benioff Replaces Warren Buffett in Annual Charity Lunch Auction

Marc Benioff Replaces Warren Buffett in Annual Charity Lunch Auction

Man in suit speaks into microphone at panel
Marc Benioff at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 18, 2024. Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu via Getty Images

For decades, devotees of investing icon Warren Buffett could bid in an annual auction to win a lunch with the Oracle of Omaha, and over the years, proceeds from the philanthropic sales raised $53 million for Glide, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that aids those suffering from homelessness, poverty and substance abuse. Now, two years after Buffett hosted his final lunch, the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) head is passing the torch to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

“The baton is in the right hands with Marc Benioff. He’s going to do a wonderful job improving on what I did over the years,” said Buffett in a statement. “With Marc’s enthusiasm and commitment, along with Glide’s leadership and volunteers, Glide will able to continue providing its vital services for San Francisco,” added Buffett, who personally asked Benioff to get involved in the auction.

Open for bidding between May 5 and May 10, the online auction hosted by eBay will kick off with a $25,000 starting price. As usual, all proceeds will benefit Glide’s services and programs and the winner can bring up to seven guests to the meal. “We are so grateful that Marc Benioff is continuing Warren Buffett’s legacy of supporting San Francisco’s most vulnerable,” said Gina Fromer, Glide president and CEO, in a statement.

Benioff has big shoes to fill. Debuting in 2000 with a $25,000 winning bid from tech entrepreneur Pete Budlong, the annual charity lunch auction has reliably raised at least $1 million since 2008. After a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the auction raised a record-breaking $19 million in 2022 for Buffett’s final charity lunch.

While it hasn’t yet been determined where Benioff will be hosting his lunch, Buffett’s typically occurred at Manhattan’s Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. A medium-rare steak with hash browns and a cherry coke was reportedly the Berkshire Hathaway CEO’s usual order.

What do winners discuss during lunch?

While most auction winners glean wisdom and advice from the seasoned investor, some past lunches have led to job opportunities. Ted Weschler, a hedge fund manager who spent two lunches with Buffett in 2010 and 2011 for a total of $5.2 million, evidently impressed the billionaire during those meals and now works as an investment manager for Berkshire Hathaway.

Although restricted from discussing Buffett’s future investment plans, it’s not unusual for lunch-goers to use their time with the investor to talk business. Justin Sun, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur who placed a winning bid of $4.6 million in 2019, attempted to convince Buffett—an outspoken critic of digital currency—of the potential of Bitcoin during his meal. In 2009, auction winner Zhao Danyang received an accidental windfall when he told the media ahead of his lunch that he planned to give Buffett a stock tip for the Chinese retailer WuMart. Shares soared in anticipation, with Danyang’s stocks in the company increasing in value by $16 million.

Buffett’s annual lunches were initially conceived by his late wife Susan, who died in 2004 and was involved with Glide. The Berkshire Hathaway head has long been involved in philanthropy and has pledged to give away most of his $132.6 billion fortune. Alongside Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, he helped establish the Giving Pledge, a campaign that urges billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth to charity.

Benioff, who has a net worth of $9.7 billion, is a signee of the campaign and has funneled his philanthropy towards organizations working in health care and income inequality. His recent donations have been largely focused on Hawaii, where the Salesforce executive owns large swathes of land, and have included $150 million gift benefitting hospitals and the transfer of 282 acres to a nonprofit focused on affordable housing.

“I’m incredibly humbled to continue Warren’s legacy by supporting the Power of One Charity Lunch Auction, and I’m so grateful for the passion of Susie and the leadership of Warren and Reverend Cecil Williams,” said Benioff in a statement. “We’re thrilled to work with Glide, building on their great work to support the amazing city of San Francisco.”

Marc Benioff Replaces Warren Buffett in Glide’s Annual Charity Lunch Auction

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