With markets back in turmoil thanks to fresh COVID-19 fears, it may be very worthwhile to open your wallet to win a chance to dine with billionaire investor William Ackman.
And of course, giving to a good cause is an added bonus.
The founder of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital launched his fourth annual charity lunch on Wednesday via Charitybuzz to support the David Lynch Foundation (DLF). DLF is a nonprofit that implements and promotes the practice of Transcendental Meditation for veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), inner-city children, and women who are victims of domestic violence.
Each charity lunch has brought in increasing sums paid to dine with the well-known activist investor — in 2018 the auction sold for $57,700, $75,000 in 2019 and $210,000 in 2020. Ackman matches the donations paid by the winning bidder, who alongside one guest will attend a private lunch with the billionaire.
"I think they're doing good and important work, and and they're really focused on the first responder type — think health care workers in New York City, the fire department, the police department, these are people who for whom the stress and the challenges of their day job are such that I think they can really benefit," Ackman told Yahoo Finance, referring to DLF. "I'm a big believer in non-pharmaceutical interventions that can help people with mental health and other kinds of issues."
Ackman said he has had fascinating chats with previous auction winners.
Last month, Ackman said he met a previous year's winner for lunch and discussed their algorithmic program to bet on horses. Meanwhile, Ackman said the first year's winner, Andrew Wilkinson, remains a friend and he has invested in some of his businesses.
"I have actually really enjoyed these lunches," Ackman added.
Ackman’s friend Mark Axelowitz, managing director at UBS Private Wealth Management and executive chairman of the David Lynch Foundation, originally got him into Transcendental Meditation and posed the idea of the charity lunch auctions.
"I think it's a game-changer," said Axelowitz of Transcendental Meditation to Yahoo Finance, noting a lot of Wall Street people like Bridgewater Associates billionaire founder Ray Dalio are practitioners.
Axelowitz predicted this year's lunch with Ackman will raise its most money yet.
Ackman is in good company
Ackman's charity lunch is similar to the highly publicized one held for years by fellow billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
In 2019 (aka pre-pandemic), cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun paid a record sum of $4.6 million to dine with the Oracle of Omaha. Four others came as Sun's guests to the country club dinner held in Buffett's backyard of Omaha, Nebraska, including litecoin creator Charlie Lee.
Sun told The Wall Street Journal in an interview at the time "it was one of the great moments of my life."
Buffett has raised roughly $34.2 million in 20 annual auctions that support the GLIDE Foundation, Reuters reports. The first event was held in 2000.
While crypto probably won't be the most important topic (or any topic) of discussion at Ackman's lunch, the recent spate of market volatility will likely come up. Ackman's latest Twitter comments on the markets and impact of the Omicron variant caused a lot of chatter in the finance community earlier in the week.
Ackman reiterated the comments he made on Twitter to Yahoo Finance, saying he is an "optimist" on the markets.
"I think the risk for the market generally is how the market responds to the Federal Reserve kind of tightening up financial conditions," Ackman added. "I think that's the risk for the market."