Warren Buffett Extends Lead In $1 Million Hedge Fund Bet

The Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett made a wager with Protégé Partners that the S&P 500 would outperform hedge funds over 10 years.

We are now 7 years into the wager and Warren Buffett is winning easily. While he is backing the stock market, New York-based money manager Protégé picked 5 funds of hedge funds which it said would outperform the market. The names of the funds have never been released publicly, but over the course of the bet they are up an average of 19.6%. Buffett, meanwhile, is represented by the Vanguard 500, which is up 63.5%.

Under the terms of the agreement, the winner will choose a charity to receive $1 million, or potentially more, reports Carol J. Loomis of Fortune.com.

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Tortoise versus hare

The only year in which the funds “outperformed” the index was 2008. The funds saw a decrease of 24%, but Warren Buffett’s shares went down 37%. Since then Buffett has slowly but surely pulled away from his rival. He once likened himself to a tortoise against a hare, and the fable has continued to ring true.

So could Protégé stage a remarkable comeback? Ted Seides, the partner who negotiated the bet with Buffett, claims that victory for the company now depends on “a severe market contraction.” However he later added that in general terms, “no one wins when that occurs.”

$1 million (or more) windfall

Warren Buffett has nominated Girls Inc. of Omaha as his designated charity should he win the bet. The charity could end up receiving more than $1 million given the exact terms of the agreement. Originally the two sides invested $320,000 in a zero-coupon bond which would have been worth $1 million after 10 years, but the financial crisis meant that zero-coupon bond rates went up, and the bond was approaching $1 million by the fall of 2012.

The two sides agreed to immediately liquidate the bond and reinvest the proceeds in the B stock of Berkshire Hathaway, with Warren Buffett promising to pay $1 million if the stock isn’t worth that much by the end of the bet. Since then both Berkshire and the S&P 500 in general have performed strongly, and the stock is worth approximately $1,680,000.

Whatever happens from here on in, there will be a very happy charity fundraising coordinator out there somewhere.