By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - The chairman of a Chinese company that develops online games has agreed to pay $2,345,678 for a private lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, winning a charity auction.
This year's auction was the 16th to benefit the Glide Foundation, a nonprofit in San Francisco's Tenderloin district that provides food, health care, rehabilitation and other services to the poor and homeless.
Glide said Zhu Ye, chairman of Beijing-based Dalian Zeus Entertainment Co <002354.SZ>, submitted the highest of 76 bids to win the five-day auction on eBay , which concluded on Friday night.
His bid was well below the $3,456,789 winning bid in 2012, still a record for an eBay charity auction, but will help Glide meet its $16 million annual budget. The 16 auctions have raised about $20.2 million.
"What we try to do is work to empower our people, to make sure that people find some way to have hope," the Rev. Cecil Williams, a Glide co-founder, said after the auction ended. "We were overjoyed when the count came in."
The winner can invite up to seven friends to eat with Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Manhattan.
Buffett, 84, will talk about almost anything, including philanthropy and life, but not what he is buying and selling.
Some past winners chose to eat with Buffett at a steakhouse in Omaha, Nebraska, where he has run Berkshire Hathaway Inc for 50 years.
The auctions began in 2000 after Buffett's first wife Susan introduced him to Glide. She died in 2004.
None of the first three winners paid more than $25,000, but the price soared once the auctions, which had been live only, moved online in 2003.
One past winner, Ted Weschler, ended up working for Buffett as a Berkshire portfolio manager after paying $5.25 million to win the 2010 and 2011 auctions.
Just eight people submitted bids this year, probably because the high bid reached seven figures on the first day. Smith & Wollensky founder Alan Stillman also donates to Glide.
Buffett is worth $69.2 billion, ranking fourth worldwide, according to Forbes magazine. He is donating nearly all his wealth to charity.
The following are the winning bids in the Glide auctions:
2000: Anonymous, $25,000
2001: Anonymous, $18,000
2002: Anonymous, $25,000
2003: David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, $250,100
2004: Jason Choo, Singapore, $202,100
2005: Anonymous, $351,100
2006: Yongping Duan, California, $620,100
2007: Mohnish Pabrai, Guy Spier, Harina Kapoor, $650,100
2008: Zhao Danyang, China, $2,110,100
2009: Salida Capital, Canada, $1,680,300
2010: Ted Weschler, $2,626,311
2011: Ted Weschler, $2,626,411
2012: Anonymous, $3,456,789
2013: Anonymous, $1,000,100
2014: Andy Chua, Singapore, $2,166,766
2015: Zhu Ye, Dalian Zeus Entertainment Co, China, $2,345,678
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)