OMAHA — The auction of a high-tech portrait of Warren Buffett is unlikely to match the $19 million someone paid earlier this year for a private lunch with the billionaire, but it will still raise a significant amount of money for one of his favorite charities.
The top bid for the signed portrait has already topped $75,000, and the biggest bids are likely to come near the end of the eBay auction when it wraps up Tuesday evening on Buffett’s 92nd birthday. The portrait created by Motiva Art features a grid of letters over the picture that light up to spell out 11 of the Berkshire Hathaway CEO’s best-known quotes including, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked.”
A previous portrait of Buffett painted by performance artist Michael Israel in 10 minutes outside the 2008 Berkshire annual meeting attracted a $100,000 price.
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The lunch auction Buffett has done for years to benefit the Glide Foundation that helps the homeless in San Francisco always attracts big bids because it offers exclusive access to the investor who is willing to answer almost any question except what he might buy next. This year’s auction generated a remarkable amount of money because Buffett said it was going to be the final one.
But he has auctioned off a number of unusual items over the years to benefit Girls Inc. of Omaha, which provides educational, cultural and recreational programs for young women in Buffett’s hometown. That nonprofit will get all the proceeds from this week’s art auction.
At one point, Buffett raised $210,000 for Girls Inc. by auctioning off one of his old wallets containing a stock tip. He’s also sold off a couple of his old cars when he was ready for an upgrade to benefit Girls Inc.
Someone paid $122,500 for Buffett’s 2006 Cadillac with his signature on the dashboard in 2015. And another bidder paid $73,200 in 2006 for Buffett’s 2001 Lincoln Town Car.
Buffett also secured a $2.2 million donation for Girls Inc. when he won a 10-year bet against a hedge fund manager that an S&P 500 stock index fund would outperform a collection of hedge funds after all their fees and expenses were factored in. Buffett has long said that most investors are better off regularly investing in a simple index fund instead of paying the high fees most investment managers charge.
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