Warren Buffett, the billionaire oracle of Omaha, is still up to his March Madness tricks.
The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who joined with Quicken Loans and Yahoo to offer $1 billion (one billion dollars!) to anyone who could correctly predict the winner of every March Madness game a few years back, has an unbeatable offer that, sadly, is open only to his employees. He will pay $1 million a year for life to an employee who correctly picks the Sweet 16 teams in the company bracket.
“If they can get to the Sweet 16, if there’s only one of them, whoever it is, he or she gets a million dollars a year for the rest of their life,” Buffett said Monday on CNBC‘s “Squawk Box.”
And even if there’s no big winner, someone could come away with some sweet cash because Buffett will hand over $100,000 to the person who goes the furthest without having a busted bracket in the company contest, which became a regular thing for the roughly 367,700 employees of Berkshire and its subsidiaries in 2014. Last year, two employees out of about 85,000 who submitted brackets finished in a tie.
“One of them knew a lot about basketball, the other didn’t know anything about basketball,” Buffett said, “but they each got $50,000 out of it.”
(Yes, Berkshire is hiring.)
This year, Buffett says he expects more than 100,000 employees to participate, but don’t fret too much about Buffet if there should be a big winner. He didn’t get where he is today by being a sap; he knows insurance and that the odds are stacked in his favor. For instance, only 14 out of 11.6 million brackets in ESPN’s 2015 contest nailed all the Sweet 16 teams and, according to Fortune, there are 282 trillion possible Sweet 16 combinations. Last year, ESPN noted that 1,140 out of more than 13 million correctly picked the Final Four so, to paraphrase Lloyd Christmas, we’re telling you there’s a chance — if you work for Berkshire Hathaway or one of its subsidiaries.
Although it’s generally an extraordinarily bad idea to bet against Buffett (unless Creighton is playing; you might stand a chance of taking his money there), why would a Berkshire employee not play? It happens to be fun, even for the guy who has the most on the line.
“We’ve lost more money in a given event before,” Buffett said in 2014 when he was asked about the billion-dollar game. “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.”
When the NCAA tournament ends, that much stands the best chance of still being true.