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Who Would Pay Money to Have Lunch With Bill Ackman?

Bill Ackman has launched his second charity lunch auction, this time for the David Lynch Foundation.

Want to have lunch with Bill Ackman? That’ll cost you over $13,500.  

Bidders are competing for the second year in a row for a chance to dine with Ackman, the high-profile activist investor who heads up Pershing Square. The auction launched earlier this week and closes October 17.  

This year’s lunch will benefit the David Lynch Foundation, a charitable organization founded by the American filmmaker behind hit TV series Twin Peaks and the film Mulholland Drive. The group brings transcendental meditation to schools, veterans, and people with HIV.

“David Lynch Foundation addresses the epidemic of stress and trauma that’s gripping all levels of society, from the boardroom to the living room to the inner-city schools,” Bob Roth, the foundation’s chief executive officer, said by phone Thursday. 

According to Ackman — who spoke with Institutional Investor by phone Thursday — Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, and UBS managing director Mark Axelowitz, who sits on the David Lynch Foundation’s board, introduced him to the organization.

He said he plans to do a donation match to the foundation based on the final auction price of the lunch. “I didn’t do it hoping to get something out of it,” Ackman said. “My goal is to help a good organization. The fringe benefit is that I meet someone interesting. Anyone who is paying a lot of money probably has something interesting to say or questions to ask.”  

Charles Frischer, an activist investor, is among the bidders hoping to dine with Ackman.

“Bill is a funny guy,” Frischer said by phone Thursday. “Like all of us, he’s got some real gifts and has got some challenges.”

While he considered the charity a positive aspect of the chance to meet Ackman, Frischer said he didn’t know much about it. “I don’t know who David Lynch is,” he said. 

Frischer isn’t new to auctioned lunches with influential people.

For example, he said he has bid on Warren Buffett’s charity lunches. And about 30 years ago, Frischer won a lunch with the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He said he chose to send a friend who works in the environmental industry, and her company ended up winning a big contract with the EPA afterward.

“If you have business to discuss, then it can be very worthwhile,” Frischer said. 

Last year’s auction for a lunch with Ackman raised $57,500, benefitting a foundation called BYkids, which provides children with training and video cameras to make documentaries about their lives, according to its website. The lunch was held at Marea, a two-Michelin-star Italian seafood restaurant near Central Park where a two-course “business lunch” goes for $67 a pop. 

The winner was Andrew Wilkinson, who is the chief executive officer and founder of Tiny Capital, a venture firm. He did not reply to an email seeking comment on last year’s lunch. 

“We became friends and I ended up investing in one of their businesses with them,” Ackman said. “I had lunch with them yesterday, and they joke that they brought down the cost by 50 percent.” 

[II Deep Dive: How Bill Ackman Turned a Lost Proxy Battle Into $1.2 Billion – And Earned His First Performance Fees in Years]

Frischer said that if he wins the auction, he would suggest to Ackman that they play a round of tennis and then grab a quick bite to eat afterward.  

As for how much this year’s lunch could go for? Frischer thinks it could be pricier than the one last year. “If Bill continues to have the success he’s had, I think the price will go up,” he said.

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