On June 7, the answer will become clear as Warren Buffett will place a meal -- and a few hours of his time -- on the auction block. For several years, the legendary investor has donated a lunch at New York's Smith and Wollensky steak house to the highest bidder, with proceeds from the auction going to the Glide Foundation, a charity that works with San Francisco's homeless. And, if recent trends continue, this year's auction will once again break a record.
Buffett's lunches are famously expensive: Since 2008, they have fetched a minimum of $1.6 million per meal, and last year's auction set a new record with a top bid of $3,456,789. Then again, while the prices seem astronomical, it isn't hard to see how they could prove profitable -- after all, who better to offer investing tips than the famed Oracle of Omaha?
When it comes to pricey dates, Buffett takes the cake, but he's hardly the only celebrity who can fetch a fortune for a few hours of his time. On the less expensive end of things, a meal with Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe recently went for $4,050, and a dinner with teen heartthrob Josh Hutcherson went for a mere $2,250 -- a bargain for some deep-pocketed fan of The Hunger Games. And, like Buffett, Kluwe and Hutcherson have used their time to support their favorite causes: Hutcherson's time went to help Abby Marsh, a young woman who was injured in a car accident, while Kluwe's meal raised money for Vote No, a group that fought against Minnesota's anti-gay marriage amendment.
But if Hutcherson and Kluwe represent relative bargains, who takes the upper end? Charitybuzz, a New York-based fundraising group, regularly auctions off dinners with some of the country's highest rollers. Here are their top-earning meal companions:
Big Ticket Buffet(t): The Most Expensive Dinners
Big Ticket Buffet(t): The World's Most Expensive Dinner Guests
Forget dinner -- the CEO of Apple only has time for coffee! Even so, 86 bidders lined up to get a shot at a little face time with the prominent businessman. The anonymous winner, whose $610,000 bid will go to support the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, will get to enjoy his java -- and 30 to 60 minutes with Cook -- at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
If you can't afford Warren Buffett, the former leader of the free world makes a good second choice. And, in the process of raising money for the William J. Clinton Foundation, the ex-President has made himself available for quite a few meals. The top sale was probably February 2012's auction for a day with Clinton (lunch presumably included), which went for the princely sum of $255,000.
For the billionaire mayor of New York, $185,000 barely qualifies as a bar tab. Still, when Bloomberg agreed to put a lunch on the line for the Humane Society, that's the amount of money the high bidder agreed to pay. And, given Bloomberg's famous access to information (not to mention his company's recently-uncovered tendency to use its terminals for spying), it isn't hard to see how an hour with hizzoner could prove profitable.
Speaking of access to information, it's hard to beat Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- and who agreed to donate a meal to benefit the Global Poverty Project. Then again, while there's no doubt about the newspapers Murdoch owns, there's some question about his access to a day planner: When Media Matters, an outspoken Murdoch critic, paid $86,000 for lunch with him, he seemed to have a hard time finding time in his schedule.
While there's a lot to be said for access to political and economic power, sometimes it doesn't hurt to be pretty. That is certainly the case for George Clooney, who was able to raise $58,000 to support the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
And then there's a lot to be said for good taste. At least, that would help explain how famed chef and failed sitcom star Emeril Lagasse was able to BAM! his way to getting a $56,000 donation to the Emeril Lagasse foundation, in return for a dinner with himself and Cajun artist George Rodrigue.
While impressive, the value of a celebrity's time can also be fleeting. In 2007, Alan Greenspan was able to net a stunning $45,000 when he auctioned off a dinner for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. A year later, his rate had plummeted to $11,000!