Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lunch with Buffett Not Only Option for Charitable Investors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lunch with Buffett Not Only Option for Charitable Investors

Article excerpt

I will admit that I have been a bit critical of the auction carried out each year for a lunch with Warren Buffett, where the highest bidder and seven friends receive a private audience with the "Master." Lunch is donated by Smith & Wollensky, along with a charitable contribution, for the privilege of hosting the event and receiving the inevitable publicity.

The opening bid this year was $25,000, whereupon 106 bids were placed as 10 individuals battled it out. An anonymous online bidder forked over a record $3,456,789 to break bread with the investment guru. This year's winning bid far exceeded the 2011 winning bid of $2,626,411. All proceeds will be donated to the Glide Foundation, an organization that fights poverty and assists the homeless.

Anyone who contributes seven figures to charity is to be commended, no argument. Yet, I have always had this uneasy feeling that the winners hoped to gain more than just the good feeling that comes from donating a substantial chunk of disposable income to a worthwhile cause.

Surely anyone successful enough to have amassed the resources required for such generosity must realize that Mr. Buffett is not about to let slip some tidbit of information that would put him in violation of the full disclosure rule. Furthermore, any expectation of uncovering some previously undisclosed key to Mr. Buffett's prodigious investment skill would be na?ve to the point of ridiculous.

Mr. Buffett does not harbor some holy grail. He simply uses a modicum of common sense, backed by solid fundamental analysis that when combined with a very large piggy bank enables him to deftly put in place a desired investment with little fanfare and generally with no need of financing.

Furthermore, every year in his annual letter to shareholders, Mr. Buffett reports his holdings, discusses their merits and shortcomings, and details why they were selected. Moreover, a number of investment websites claim to use the so-called Buffett selection criteria, a methodology that has been meticulously analyzed in countless books and articles.

Meanwhile, I have been taken to task repeatedly for being narrow minded and directing supposedly "humorous wit" to cast disparaging annotations upon good-hearted philanthropists. …

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