What Price Access?

Last year online auction website Charitybuzz offered its philanthropic-minded members the chance to bid on a lunch date with George Clooney. The unnamed winning bidder paid $58,000 to nosh with the superstar. Later, another anonymous bidder forked over $185,000 for lunch with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But neither of them came close to the $610,000 an undisclosed bidder paid in May for coffee with Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters. The auction benefited the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.

Net proceeds from all auctions go to nonprofits, with $80 million raised since the for-profit Charitybuzz was established in 2005. Musicians such as Bono ($211,000), Paul McCartney ($130,000) and Bruce Springsteen ($100,000) were, well, once the auction rock stars. That’s changed, says founder Coppy Holzman. “Over the past 18 months, the biggest superstars, the ones commanding top dollar, are entrepreneurs, tech icons and titans of industry. We have 100,000 bidders in 10 countries who want access,” Holzman says.

In June, Ralph C. Martin, CEO of Munich-based risk management agency Emirat AG, spent $91,000 to lunch with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, raising money for a charter school in East Palo Alto, Calif., that Mayer has long supported. A Belgium-based venture capitalist tendered $31,600 and traveled to San Francisco with lucky friends to lunch with Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and Square CEO.

For Newport Beach, Calif., business owner Jack Staub, the opportunity to meet Warren Buffett was well worth his $156,000 winning bid in August, with net proceeds going to Communities in Schools of Los Angeles, a dropout-prevention program connecting students with resources ranging from health services to food banks and job-shadowing opportunities. His auction package came with a sweet bonus for Staub, his wife and two kids: an all-you-can-eat tour of Berkshire Hathaway-owned See’s Candy factory in Los Angeles, plus Buffett’s personal demonstration of the “correct way to eat a bonbon,” says Holzman.

 


Sold!

Top Charitybuzz Business Bids

1.

Coffee with Tim Cook

$610,000

2.

A day with Bill Clinton

$255,000

3.

Lunch with Michael Bloomberg

$185,000

4.

Meeting and candy-factory tour with Warren Buffett

$156,000

5.

Meet-and-greet with Oprah Winfrey

$105,000

6.

Lunch with Marissa Mayer

$91,000

7.

Business pitch for Rupert Murdoch

$86,000

8.

Internships with Russell Simmons and Richard Branson

$85,000
(3 weeks
with each)

9.

Behind-the-scenes Facebook tour and lunch with Blake Ross, then director of product for Facebook

$70,000

10.

Breakfast with Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell

$45,000

11.

Meeting and SpaceX Center tour with Elon Musk

$42,500

12.

Lunch with Jack Dorsey

$31,600

 

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