Dear Mr. Buffett: I Have a Perfect Bracket. Give Me $10 Million and We’ll Call It Even.

The stadium scene.
March 21 2014 10:45 AM

Dear Warren Buffett

I have a perfect bracket, 16 for 16. I’m on my way to $1 billion. But I’m willing to negotiate.

The Dayton Flyers celebrate after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Dear Warren (if I may),

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

I hope this message finds you well. We've never had the pleasure of meeting, but I assume that you have already been briefed on the matter I’m writing you about today: my perfect bracket. Of the 11 million people who made picks on, just 18,741 went 16 for 16 on Thursday. That's 0.17 percent of entrants. Your friend Barry Obama had a good day; he was 14 for 16. Almost as good as me. Dick Vitale had a rougher go of it: He picked only 11 winners—Mediocre, with a capital M, baby. None of ESPN's celebrity participants went 16 for 16, like I did.

Look, I know you're a busy guy, so let me cut to the chase. You have publicly stated that if a contestant in your $1 billion bracket challenge makes it to the Final Four with an intact bracket, you'll buy them out of the deal, perhaps to the tune of $100 million. That's the kind of savvy play that I'd expect from the man who went long on Dairy Queen. At this early stage of the tournament, I’m willing to offer you the chance to buy my perfect bracket for $10 million. This is a one-time offer, and it's exploding—I need to hear back from you by 2 p.m. ET, or it's off the table. The clock is ticking, and a lot of your money is at stake.


A man who has made a fortune measuring risk should be able to see instantly that I'm offering a terrific deal. Warren, I picked Dayton over Ohio State. I took the eggheads from Harvard over Cincinnati. I took North Dakota State over Oklahoma. North Dakota State! It’s possible that I just got lucky. Or maybe I know something about this tournament that nobody else does, the secret to assessing which school will win every single game. Can you afford to find out the answer to this $1 billion question? If I'm you, I'm sitting in Omaha thinking, How do I get this Swansburg fellow out of my silver hair, and fast?

I'm here this morning to give you the opportunity to take that pressure off for a mere $10 million. We both know that's a pittance for a man of your means, a small price to pay for a whole lot of peace of mind. I urge you to consider my offer, and to consider it quickly, before I come to my senses. Do you really want to negotiate with me when I'm 32 for 32? I wouldn't want to negotiate with me then. Let's do a deal today and both walk away happy.


John Swansburg

P.S.: A small point, but one I should raise here, because I believe in transparency and speaking frankly with the people I do business with. I can’t recall if I remembered to submit my picks to the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. But again, we’ve come back to the question of the hour: Given the stakes, can you really afford to find out whether I entered your contest? By the time your people get back to you, I could be 18 for 18, or 20 for 20, or 26 for 26, and already counting my hundreds of millions.

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.


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