Warren Buffett, Quicken Loans will pay $1 billion for perfect March Madness bracket


Chances are Warren Buffett won’t be forking over $1 billion. (Nati Harnik / AP

Now this is a sports bet.

Berkshire Hathaway, the company owned by Warren Buffett, will pay $1 billion to the person who correctly predicts the winner of every game during March Madness. In exchange for his promise to pay up, Quicken Loans is paying Buffett a premium that neither man would disclose. (“Dan would say it’s too much, I would say it’s too little,” Buffett said.)

“This will be the most fun. Just imagine if there’s one person left at the last game,” Buffett said Tuesday. “I will go to that final game with him or her and I’ll have a check in my pocket…. I think we’ll be rooting for different teams.”

Buffett said he pitched the idea of insuring a perfect bracket to Dan Gilbert, the Quicken founder and Cleveland Cavaliers owner, last fall and the contest was announced Tuesday. It opens March 3 to the first 10 million households that sign up online. The winner can take 40 annual payments or a $500 million lump sum. Multiple winners would split the dough. In addition, Quicken will offer $100,000 each to the 20 most accurate brackets, to be used for buying, refinancing or remodeling a home. Quicken will run the contest and Berkshire Hathaway will provide security.

Good luck. If it seems like a good idea to bet against the Oracle of Omaha — and we aren’t talking Peyton Manning here –  think again. He didn’t amass $1 billion 58 times (according to Forbes) by being a patsy. He certainly wasn’t in 2003, when he backed a Pepsi-sponsored $1-billion contest involving numbers inside bottle caps. A monkey drew the final numbers and … there was no winner. Despite those “you may already be a winner” envelopes and Lloyd Christmas’s philosophy of “So you’re telling me there’s a chance,” there really is virtually no shot. Unlike Woody Grant, you’re not even going to get a “Prize Winner” cap. The contest rules for the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge note that the odds of winning 1 in 4,294,967,296.

Not that he will, but Buffett is prepared to pony up the kale. “We’ve lost more money in a given event before,” Buffett said. “Hurricane Katrina probably cost us $3 billion. We will put more at risk in a given insurance transaction than anyone in the world. But we have more capital than anyone in the world.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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