May 17, 2010 / 8:49 PM / in 7 years

Warren Buffett offers another charity steak lunch

<p>Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett talks with a reporter at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha May 1, 2010.Rick Wilking</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Warren Buffett is again auctioning a steak lunch to benefit a San Francisco charity, after last year's bidding failed to generate a record bid for the first time since 2004.

The 11th annual auction benefits the nonprofit Glide Foundation in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, which offers meals, health and child care, housing and job training for the poor.

Last year Salida Capital Corp, a Toronto-based wealth management firm, won the right to dine with the world's third-richest person with a $1,680,300 bid. That was below the record $2,110,100 bid in 2008 by Hong King-based investor Zhao Danyang.

Known for its lively Sunday morning services including gospel music, Glide said it has struggled with the nation's economic troubles, with donations falling nearly 20 percent.

The Rev. Cecil Williams, 80, who founded Glide and leads its affiliated church, said in an interview that Buffett's lunch covers about one-tenth of Glide's $17 million annual budget.

"Our lines for help are much longer this year than they've been in almost any year," Williams said. "We are so proud that we have not had to close the doors on people to say 'we have no more.' That's why Warren Buffett's dedication and commitment every year to Glide is so significant."

The auction will be held on eBay Inc's website from June 6 to June 11. The winner and up to seven others will dine with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York. Previous auctions have raised more than $5.9 million.

Buffett is the world's third-richest person, worth $47 billion according to Forbes magazine. He built his fortune through his Omaha, Nebraska-based insurance and investment company Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

It is unclear how Buffett's increased visibility might affect this year's bidding.

The 79-year-old answers more than five hours of questions before tens of thousands of shareholders at Berkshire's annual meeting, and also now makes frequent television appearances.

He told shareholders at Berkshire's May 1 meeting he liked "being judged by my own words rather than someone writing a few paragraphs. And that requires being on television."

Buffett has even given away a meal for free. In February, he invited a 29-year-old hedge fund manager to dine with him in Omaha after her stock research impressed him.

Buffett began donating lunches after his first wife Susan introduced him to Glide. Susan Buffett died in 2004. In 2006, Buffett pledged most of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Richard Chang

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