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Buffett Remains a Big Draw

The response to Buffett's annual auction for charity shows he's as popular as ever.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Warren Buffett has taken his share of heat over the past few months as he made efforts to support some of his more controversial holdings.

Just last week, I put together a piece examining some of the Oracle's

less popular

positions in firms such as

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

and

Moody's

(MCO) - Get Report

.

The investor has also faced heat for his flip-flopping views on derivatives. Although in the past he had called these instruments "financial weapons of mass destruction," critics have pointed out the fact that

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.A) - Get Report

commands a multi-billion dollar derivative portfolio. This slice of Buffett's portfolio has received additional scrutiny as Washington takes steps to finalize its sweeping financial reform bill.

Buffett's appeal, however, does not appear to have been compromised by a few individual positions or his multibillion-dollar derivative portfolio. Despite the blemishes these holdings may place on his image, he remains one of the most charismatic and widely followed individuals in the world.

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Evidence that Buffett can rise above even the harshest scrutiny can be seen this week as financial journalists and Buffett watchers keep a close eye on a single

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

auction. In what has become a widely anticipated annual event, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman is once again auctioning off his time to the highest bidder. This marks the eleventh year that this auction as been held.

The winner of the auction earns the opportunity to wine and dine with the legendary investor and invite up to seven guests to share in this experience.

The auction began June 6, with an opening bid of $25,000. During the first day of the auction, bidding was slow. However, as expected, momentum has increased as the deadline quickly approaches. As of late Thursday, the bidding price had reached over $900,100, and this morning, bidders have pushed the price to more than $1.5 million.

Over the years, individuals and small companies have paid out millions of dollars for the chance to rub elbows and pick the brain of one of the world's greatest investors.

Currently, Zhao Danyang of Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund holds the record for shelling out the most money for the chance to meet the Oracle of Omaha. In 2008 the manager paid over $2.1 million. In 2009, Courtenay Wolfe of Salida Capital posted the winning bid, offering $1.68 million for a seat at Buffett's table.

The money generated from this and past lunch auctions does not go directly into Buffett or Berkshire Hathaway's pocket. Rather, the proceeds are donated in whole to one of charities Buffett is involved with: the Glide Foundation. The foundation is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing poor and marginalized citizens with healthcare, job training and shelter. Prior to this year's auction, the annual auction has raised approximately $6 million for the group.

Bidding for this year's auction is set to end Friday at 7:30 PDT. Do you think the winning bid will exceed last year's total?

-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

At the time of publication, Dion Money Management was not long any of the equities mentioned.

Don Dion is president and founder of

Dion Money Management

, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.

Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.