For nearly 20 years, as a fundraiser for anti-poverty non-profit The Glide Foundation, billionaire and investing legend Warren Buffett has been auctioning off a lunch date with himself.
The bids for breaking bread with Buffett have soared in price: Last year's winner shelled out $2,679,001. In total, the coveted meals have raised over $26 million for the organization and given Buffett disciples the chance to glean wisdom from the 87-year-old over a steak, an order of hash browns and a cherry coke.
But for one former Virginia hedge-fund manager, winning the auction proved much more valuable than just scoring a chance to exchange ideas with Buffett.
After winning two years in a row, Ted Weschler landed a job offer from the Oracle of Omaha.
Weschler, who is now a money manager at Berkshire Hathaway, first discovered Buffett's investing philosophies in 1979 while studying at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, The Omaha World Herald reports.
"From then on, I kept my eye open for anything that had to do with [Buffett]," Weschler tells the paper. "It was on my list that at some point I wanted to meet the guy."
Weschler studied Buffett's techniques, and employed them at his Charlottesville, Virginia, hedge-fund, Peninsula Capital Advisors. The fund held roughly $2 billion in assets in 2011 and far outperformed the S&P 500 that year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
For one, Weschler read constantly.
"Ted will spend months quietly in the corner trying to understand a particular issue, then he emerges like a quiet reporter of what he's learned," a colleague told the Journal. Weschler tells The World Herald that his office "was really more of a library."
The idea to run his business out of a smaller city (instead of New York) came from Buffett too. "One of the real takeaways for me in all of the reading that I did over the years about Warren, was how important it was to stay away from the noise," Weschler explains.
Given his fascination with Buffett's teachings, Weschler was interested when he heard about the auctions for Glide. Before bidding, he made an appointment to meet with the organization.
"They were terrific. They invited me in and I ended up spending half a day at Glide," Weschler says. "That gave me the comfort that this was not only an opportunity to potentially visit with Warren but also, in many ways more significantly, to help out a really worthwhile charity."
After winning the 2010 auction anonymously with a $2,626,311 bid, he flew to Omaha to meet Buffett for a dinner at Piccolo's. The following year he upped his bid by $100 to $2,626,411, and won again.
At the dinners, Buffett was curious about Weschler's hedge-fund success, Fortune's former editor-at-large Carol Loomis reported in 2011. Investors who backed Peninsula in early 2000 saw a 1236 percent gain by 2011.
"It was very natural and conversational," Weschler tells The World Herald. "We've got similar backgrounds, both liked business as kids, had done all sorts of active investing in companies."
At the second dinner, Buffett extended a job offer.
"I very much wanted him to do it, but I didn't expect to get very far with the idea," Buffett told Fortune in 2011. "Ted will no doubt make a lot of money at Berkshire. But he was already making a lot of money with his fund — you can get an idea of that from the size of his Glide bids — so money wasn't a reason for him to come."
Weschler took the job.
Today he manages billions at Berkshire Hathaway. And, he's still reading — just like Buffett.
"I spend the vast majority of my day reading," Weschler tells Yahoo Finance. "I try to make about half of that reading random. Things like newspapers and trade periodicals."
This year's Glide auction will take place on eBay, starting May 27 and ending at 9:30 p.m. central time on June 1.
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