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How Warren Buffett Won His Multi-Million Dollar Long Bet

Buffett’s wager is a lesson in taking the Long View

Ahmed Kabil
Feb 17, 2018 · 13 min read
This year, Warren Buffett won his multi-million dollar, decade-long Long Bet.

I. The Oracle of Omaha

In May 02006, some 20,000 investors convened, as they did every year, at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting to hear the Oracle of Omaha hold forth. After issuing prophecies on matters such as whether to invest in newspapers (don’t), and a looming housing bubble (there would be), Berkshire Hathaway CEO and legendary investor Warren Buffett took aim at hedge fund managers and the exorbitant fees they charged investors for their supposed expertise in beating the market.

The scene at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. Sarah Hoffman/The World-Herald
Warren Buffett at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting in Omaha in 2015. Bloomberg via Getty images
Ted Seides and Warren Buffett. Fortune

II. Wanna Bet?

The story of Long Bets begins, appropriately, with a bet. In 01995, Kevin Kelly, then-Executive Editor of Wired, was interviewing self-described neo-luddite Kirkpatrick Sale, who believed the end of the world was imminent. In the interview, Sale said that by 02020, humanity would suffer “multinational global currency collapse, social friction and warfare both between the rich and the poor and within nations, and […] continent-wide environmental disasters causing death and great migrations of people” — a perspective that, suffice it to say, Kelly did not share.

Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Long Bets. Christopher Michel
The results from the Bedford Level Experiment confounded scientists for 30 years before it was realized that it is merely an optical refraction effect. Lateral Science
The Simon-Ehrlich wager.
Kevin Kelly, Stewart Brand, and Long Now Executive Director Alexander Rose. Gary Wilson
Long Bet #2.
Long Bet #7.
Long Bet #11.
Long Bet #382.
Long Bet #712.
Long Bet #1.
Long Bet #8.

III. The Tortoise and the Hare

Buffett invested in the Vanguard index fund. Protégé picked five hedge funds of funds (whose names have never been publicly disclosed — although Buffett does see their annual audits).

\The 02008 Financial Crisis hit soon after the bet began. Business Insider UK
The final scorecard for the bet.
Left: Warren Buffett and Long Now Executive Director Alexander Rose present the $2.2 million check to Girls Inc. of Omaha on February 16, 02018.
Long Now co-founder Danny Hillis, Jeffrey Tarrant of Protégé, Alexander Rose, and Warren and Susie Buffett at the Girls Inc. of Omaha check event on February 16, 02018.

Learn More

  • Do you have strong opinions about the future? Put your money where your mouth is. Make a bet with Long Bets here.
  • Listen to Planet Money’s primer on the Bet.
  • Read Wired’s 02002 Long Bets profile.
  • Read Long Now’s year-by-year accounting of the bet.
  • Read Warren Buffett’s 02018 Annual Report, where he shares his lessons from the bet.

The Long Now Foundation

Fostering Long-term Thinking

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