Buffett’s big bet: Insuring $1 billion prize in NCAA bracket contest

University of Louisville players celebrate after beating Michigan in last year's NCAA basketball tournament.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images )

Think you can guess the winners of all 67 games in this spring’s NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament?

Warren Buffett is betting a fortune that you can’t.

The Omaha investing guru is insuring a Quicken Loans promotion that will award $1 billion (yes, with a B) to anyone who can correctly guess the winners of every game of this spring’s NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament.

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Detroit-based Quicken, the nation’s fourth-largest mortgage lender, and Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway will pay the prize in 40 annual installments of $25 million. The winner can elect to receive an immediate lump payment of $500 million.

“We’ve seen a lot of contests offering $1 million for putting together a good bracket, which got us thinking, ‘What is the perfect bracket worth?’ We decided $1 billion seems right for such an impressive feat,” said Jay Farner, Quicken’s president and chief marketing officer. “It is our mission to create amazing experiences for our clients. This contest, with the possibility of creating a billionaire, definitely fits that bill.”

Quicken did not say how much it is paying Buffett to insure the top prize. So, what does Quicken get from this? Millions of email addresses to use in future marketing efforts -- and a ton of exposure. The company is limiting the contest to 10 million entrants.

Buffett said he thinks the contest, which is free to enter, is a good deal for basketball fans -- and people who like to dream.

“Millions of people play brackets every March, so why not take a shot at becoming $1 billion richer for doing so?” Buffett said. “While there is no simple path to success, it sure doesn’t get much easier than filling out a bracket online.”

Quicken will also award $100,000 each to the contest’s 20 most accurate imperfect brackets to use toward buying, refinancing or remodeling a home.

Registration for the contest will begin March 3. All participants registering before the tournament selection process will receive their brackets the evening of March 16.



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