Buffett vs Pickens? Ask McArdle

If Warren Buffett fought T. Boone Pickens, who would win? McArdle breaks down the odds.


(Illustration by Peter Arkle)

My buddy says there’s nothing faster than a Mustang Cobra Jet. Can you help me prove him wrong?

Discussing a drag-racer automobile offers little excuse for hillbilly diction, particularly when “nothing faster” creates a wide field for competition. So let us use your friend’s loose semantics in our favour. If your comrade bought a Mustang Cobra Jet, he would pay roughly US$93,000 for a car that exceeds 320 kilometres per hour on the drag-racing track. Let us first be kind and set aside natural phenomena like a bolt of lightning, which is 1.7 million times faster than the car, or Halley’s comet, which approaches Earth moving at some 240,000 km/hour. We will limit the field to, say, land transportation. Your associate’s car is still slower than a Japanese bullet train (500 km/hour) or Kawasaki’s ZZR1400 motorcycle (440 km/hour). It is even outclassed in the narrow realm of automobiles by speedsters such as the 430-km/hour Bugatti Veyron, which I might add is street legal, a virtue the Cobra Jet sadly does not share. One caveat: the 2012 Cobra Jet was recently proclaimed the world’s fastest accelerating car, reaching 95 km/hour in 1.52 seconds, besting the Veyron’s record of 2.57 seconds. But if your friend wanted to debate acceleration at the get-go, he should have said so.

Who would win in a fight between T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffett?

Let me applaud your unspoken assertion that the financial world needs more pugilism. If Wall Street settled grievances with fisticuffs rather than regulation, its reputation might still be intact. In some endeavours—thoracic surgery, cleaning fish, ménage à trois—expert guidance is invaluable. Thus, I turned to Ladbrokes, Britain’s finest gambling establishment, to calculate the outcome of a donnybrook between Pickens, the 84-year-old Texas oilman, and Buffett, the 82-year-old Nebraskan investor. Their verdict? Four-to-six odds in Buffett’s favour. “Despite similarities between the men, we feel Buffet’s health, standard of fitness, life habits and age give him a reasonable edge,” said Philip Tuck, who handles specials trading, including novelty gaming, a subsection of the bookmaking world that offers odds on everything from the Miss World competition to whether the upcoming Hobbit film will be the most lucrative J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation. One might note that, regardless of recent illness, Buffet stays limber through a gruelling Ping-Pong regimen. Pickens, meanwhile, lost a university basketball scholarship and quit playing racquet ball at the age of 65. He now appears to have abandoned competitive sport altogether—three divorces notwithstanding. Moreover, Ladbrokes offers two-to-one odds on Buffett winning by knockout, technical knockout or disqualification, but adds that “We would expect both fighters to struggle to finish all rounds.” The men’s age and “frailty” also led Ladbrokes to offer 16-1 odds for a double knockout, where both men would be put out of the fight at the same time. To become the Wizard of Whupping, Buffett will need to strike swiftly.

What’s a good birthday gift for a boss?

This may seem a trivial concern, but it is the small matters that define one’s character. Ask yourself: Am I a toady? Do I want my success to depend on the constant suckling of my superior’s fleshy haunch? If so, consider a bonsai plant or muffin basket. But if you do not covet the lackey’s life, a handshake and sincere good wishes are sufficient.

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