CHANGE OF PLANS

A New York steakhouse famed for power dining won’t host this year’s $4.6 million Buffett lunch

All you can eat, Buffett.
All you can eat, Buffett.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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Each year to benefit charity, Warren Buffett famously auctions off the privilege of joining him for lunch for millions of dollars. The meal has traditionally been held at the famed New York steakhouse Smith & Wollensky. There the “Oracle of Omaha” apparently usually orders a medium-rare steak, hash browns and a Cherry Coke.

This year, though, Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun, who bid $4.6 million to win the lunch, is moving it to the West Coast. CoinDesk, which first reported the change in venue, dubbed it a “power move.” It speculates that Sun is trying to push Buffett out of his comfort zone by relocating him from the place where the lunch has been held for 15 years. Buffett, like the US president, is a man who knows what he likes to eat, and prefers to stick to it.

Smith & Wollensky opened in Manhattan in 1977. It is now a global chain, frequently hosting money-making discussions over $50 steaks. In 2010, in a pretty successful publicity stunt, it took out an ad offering bankers who got stock-only bonuses steak in exchange for stock. It is unclear if this barter was ever made.

Hedge fund manager Zhao Danyang, left, and his son Zhao Ziyang, 5, with Buffett at Smith & Wollensky at the 2009 lunch.
Hedge fund manager Zhao Danyang, left, and his son Zhao Ziyang, 5, with Buffett at Smith & Wollensky at the 2009 lunch.
Image: Reuters/Chip East

The new venue for the July 25 meeting hasn’t been disclosed, but the name of at least one of the seven attending guests is known: Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, Sun said on Twitter yesterday.

This won’t be the first time the lunch has been held in San Francisco. In 2000, the inaugural meal, won by technology entrepreneur Pete Budlong for $25,000 (or about $37,000 in today’s dollars), was held at Stars, also a steakhouse. The city is home to Glide, the anti-poverty nonprofit supported by Buffett’s late wife which will get the proceeds from the lunch.

Tron CEO Sun is the creator of the Tronix (TRX) cryptocurrency, which had its initial coin offering just before China started a major crackdown on cryptocurrency. Buffett, as recently as last year, referred to bitcoin as “rat poison” and said the sector attracted charlatans.

Perhaps they should have stuck with a restaurant that iconic New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl called “a steakhouse to end all arguments.”