July 8, 2009 / 5:34 PM / 8 years ago

Buffett lunch auction won by Canadian firm Salida

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Canadian wealth management firm has won last month’s charity auction of a steak lunch with Warren Buffett, in which it agreed to pay $1,680,300 (C$1.97 million) to dine with the world’s second-richest person.

<p>Billionaire financier and Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett attends the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska May 2, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>

Salida Capital Corp, a Toronto-based firm, was the top bidder in the five-day auction, which ended on June 26. The identity of the winner had previously been kept secret.

The auction benefited 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.

Glide has raised more than $5.92 million (C$6.93 million) from such auctions in each of the last 10 years, including a record $2,110,100 (C$2.47 million) in 2008. The auction was conducted on eBay Inc’s website. Salida had not bid for the lunch before this year.

“It is something we have been thinking about doing for a while,” said Courtenay Wolfe, Salida’s chief executive, in an interview. “Warren’s success has transcended decades and all types of market conditions, and his wisdom and experience is of great value to us, at such a sensitive time in history.”

Buffett, who runs the insurance and investment company Berkshire Hathaway Inc, was out of the office and not immediately available for comment, spokeswoman Carrie Kizer said.

The winner and up to seven friends will dine with the world’s second-richest person at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.

At least three of the last six winners came from outside the United States, including Hong Kong investor Zhao Danyang, who submitted the record bid in 2008. The identity of the 2005 winner has not been publicly revealed.

Wolfe said Salida began investing in 2000 and now oversees about C$300 million (US$256 million) of assets, focusing on “alternative investments” and macroeconomic themes, and employing leverage and short-selling strategies.

According to its website, the Salida Multi Strategy Fund has returned an average 22.3 percent since its 2004 inception. The fund is volatile: it fell 66.5 percent last year, but returned 83.4 percent from January to June, the website shows.

Buffett is known as a fundamental investor, focusing on undervalued, easy-to-follow businesses with strong management.

He has built Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire into a roughly $135 billion (C$158 billion) conglomerate with close to 80 businesses selling such things as car insurance, paint and ice cream, and tens of billions of dollars of stock investments.

Wolfe expects two of her partners to be among the lunch attendees. She said Glide’s activities and impact were big factors in Salida’s decision to bid high.

“Value is in the eye of the beholder,” she added.

(US$1 = C$1.17)

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel

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