Would You Eat an Awkward Meal with a Billionaire for $300?

By Noah Kaufman |

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Are you a “poor and destitute American”? That’s the target demographic of the latest philanthropic extravaganza put on by the Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao. Chen is hosting a lunch for 1,000 people at Central Park’s pricey Loeb Boathouse, June 25. In addition to a free meal, he will give each attendee $300.

To promote the event, Chen took out a full-page ad in the New York Times this week, in which he proclaims in both Chinese and English that he wants to “spread the message in the US that there are good philanthropists in China and not all are crazy spenders on luxury goods.” (Some of them are just crazy, full stop.) There’s certainly nothing wrong with giving money to those in need, but handing it out at a fancy restaurant strikes us as a bit tone-deaf.

It is not clear if you have to prove “poor and destitute” status or if you can simply self-identify, but in order to go you do have to RSVP weishanzuile@hotmail.com. Sounds sketchy, yes, but less-so than most schemes that ask you to email a Hotmail address. 

These sorts of stunts are not new for Chen, who made a name for himself as a philanthropist after a 2008 earthquake in China where he showed up with “300,000 yuan in a bag.” Here in the United States, he is most notable for trying to buy the New York Times several months ago and for having the world’s worst business card. If you are interested in $300 and a nice lunch, you’d better RSVP fast, because we’re sure seats are going quick. And if you need a menu to entice you, here’s what you might be eating while you wait for your money. 

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