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By Inyoung Hwang
July 31 (Bloomberg) — Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who’s pledged to donate his fortune to worthy causes, helped raise $4,500 for charity with the sale of an oversized Dairy Queen ice-cream spoon bearing his signature.
The five-pound spoon drew 61 bids since July 21 in an Internet auction that ended yesterday, according to EBay Inc.’s website. Proceeds will go to the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals. The winning bidder wasn’t identified. Dairy Queen is a unit of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the holding company Buffett built through acquisitions and stock picks.
Buffett, the world’s third-richest person, has promised to give 99 percent of his fortune to charity. He and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates are working to persuade fellow billionaires to give at least half their wealth to philanthropy. Buffett, 79, wrote in a letter announcing the campaign last month that he had benefited from an economy where “fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.”
“My hat’s off to Warren Buffett for continuing to have a philanthropic bent on life,” said Coppy Holzman, co-founder and chief executive officer of charitybuzz.com, a website that runs auctions for nonprofit groups. “He’s an iconic figure in the industry. People follow what he does.”
Buffett made his largest donation since the 2008 financial crisis this year, giving $1.6 billion in Berkshire Class B stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, named for Gates and his wife. The foundation combats disease and global poverty and funds U.S. education initiatives. Gates, the world’s second- richest man after Mexico’s Carlos Slim, is a Berkshire director.
Buffett, whose wealth was estimated at $47 billion by Forbes magazine in March, announced his philanthropic plans in 2006. He pledged about 85 percent of his Berkshire holdings to the Gates Foundation; the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, a charity named for his late wife; and organizations run by his children: the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Sherwood Foundation and the NoVo Foundation.
Buffett transformed Berkshire over four decades from a failing textile mill to a $193 billion enterprise. He collects a $100,000 annual salary and lives in the home he bought in 1958 for $31,500, according to a book by his son Peter.
Buffett’s annual charity-lunch auction in June raised a record $2.63 million to benefit the San Francisco-based Glide Foundation, which serves meals to the needy. The auction winner and as many as seven guests get to have lunch with Buffett at New York steakhouse Smith & Wollensky. Buffett has raised more than $8 million with 11 Glide auctions.
In 2006, a 2001 Lincoln Town Car owned by Buffett with the license plate “THRIFTY” sold for $73,200 on EBay to benefit youth-education organization Girls Inc.
“Bidders can respond well to unusual things,” Holzman said. “You can give back. You can have fun while you do it.”
–With assistance from Andrew Frye in New York. Editors: Dan Reichl, William Ahearn.
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