In recent years, there has been heightened interest around the Mega Millions lottery, especially when the jackpot rises to astronomical levels. With prizes climbing into the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, it’s no surprise that even wealthy executives and business leaders will often try their luck on a Mega Millions ticket when the pot gets unusually large. This prompts the question – what CEOs and top business executives have been revealed as Mega Millions ticket buyers? Have any hit the jackpot? Let’s take a look at some of the known instances of CEOs and prominent business leaders purchasing Mega Millions tickets over the years.
Notable CEOs and Executives Who Have Bought Mega Millions Tickets
In January 2016, when the Mega Millions jackpot rose to an estimated $1.6 billion, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page that he had bought a ticket, stating “When the jackpot gets big enough, even non-gamblers like me buy a ticket. Here’s hoping…” Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, he didn’t end up winning the record-setting jackpot, which was split between three winning tickets purchased in Tennessee, Florida, and California. While the Facebook CEO has a net worth estimated at $125 billion, it seems even he couldn’t resist playing Mega Millions when the prize pool got into record territory.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has occasionally bought Mega Millions tickets over the years when jackpots have grown especially large. Given Gates’ estimated $129 billion net worth, his Mega Millions ticket purchases have largely been out of curiosity and for the entertainment value. In March 2019, Gates told Ellen DeGeneres that he had recently purchased a ticket for that month’s drawing, which had a jackpot over $500 million. However, Gates made it clear he didn’t actually expect or need to win the prize money, stating “I’m not going to cry if I don’t win.” While Gates enjoys participating in the lottery excitement when jackpots get huge, he has yet to score a Mega Millions jackpot victory.
Billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has revealed that he occasionally plays Mega Millions, but mainly just for the enjoyment when jackpots pass the $400 million mark. When the Mega Millions prize hit $1.6 billion in January 2016, Buffett told Fortune magazine that he had bought several tickets. He said he knew the odds of winning were microscopically small, but wanted to join in the national enthusiasm around the giant jackpot. While the “Oracle of Omaha” is worth approximately $105 billion, he hasn’t had any success yet winning a Mega Millions prize. However, Buffett keeps things in perspective, stating he doesn’t anticipate winning and hasn’t made any concrete plans for a potential jackpot payday.
In May 2022, when the Mega Millions jackpot reached $516 million, Shea Gouldd – the CEO and founder of Chicago-based Martin-Marietta Materials – posted on LinkedIn that he had bought a ticket. Gouldd stated, “I never play the lottery, but half a billion is just too much to not purchase a $2 ticket!” Like others before him, the construction materials CEO decided to try his luck once the Mega Millions prize pool became unusually large. However, Lady Luck wasn’t on his side, as a different ticket in Tennessee ended up hitting the $516 million jackpot.
Brian Sheth, the CEO and co-founder of investment firm Vista Equity Partners, has revealed he will occasionally buy Mega Millions tickets, but mainly just for entertainment. In 2018, when the jackpot climbed over $500 million, Sheth told CNBC that he had purchased 20 tickets for that drawing. However, he made it clear he didn’t have any realistic expectation of winning and wasn’t banking on a Mega Millions victory to fund his business deals or investment activity. While Sheth enjoys participating for fun, he has yet to score a big Mega Millions prize.
Breaking Down the Odds for CEOs
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are incredibly slim – at 1 in 302.6 million. This means that even CEOs and prominent businessmen who can afford to buy hundreds or thousands of tickets are still extremely unlikely to hit the jackpot. To illustrate, let’s assume a CEO buys 1,000 Mega Millions tickets when the advertised jackpot is $500 million and the odds of winning are 1 in 302.6 million:
- Odds of 1 ticket winning the jackpot: 1 in 302.6 million
- Odds of 1,000 tickets winning the jackpot: 1 in 302,600
As we can see, while 1,000 tickets results in better odds than a single ticket, at approximately 1 in 300,000 it is still extremely improbable to win the jackpot. To put this in perspective, the CEO has a much higher chance of being struck by lightning this year, which has odds of about 1 in 500,000 based on National Weather Service data.
Let’s say a CEO really wants to improve their Mega Millions odds and purchases 1 million tickets when the jackpot is $1 billion:
- Odds of 1 ticket winning: 1 in 302.6 million
- Odds of 1 million tickets winning: 1 in 302.6
While spending $1 million on tickets results in odds of about 1 in 300, purchasing this many tickets is cost-prohibitive for nearly all executives. Plus, there is no guarantee a solo winner will emerge – they’d still need to split the prize if other players also matched the numbers. As such, the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against CEOs hoping to win Mega Millions, even if they have deep pockets and purchase many tickets.
Have Any CEOs Actually Won the Mega Millions Jackpot?
While numerous top executives and business leaders have tried their luck over the years on Mega Millions tickets, none have yet to publicly claim a jackpot victory. The random number generator does not favor the wealthy or prominent, so CEOs have no better odds than the average player when competing for the top prize. Some notable Mega Millions jackpot winners have included:
- A Colorado repair shop owner who won $4 million in 2022
- A group of 20 co-workers from California who split a $543 million prize in 2018
- A 49-year-old divorcee from New Jersey who won $533 million in 2018
- A 20-year-old Florida man who scored a $451 million payday in 2018
While everyday individuals make up the bulk of Mega Millions jackpot victors, no publicly known Fortune 500 CEOs, prominent investors, or billionaires have yet won the top prize. Mega Millions prizes have been won by wealthy individuals in the past – for example, hedge fund manager David Einhorn won $500,000 in a 2011 Mega Millions drawing. However, Einhorn matched just 5 main numbers and missed the Mega Ball, so he fell far short of the $61 million jackpot up for grabs that night.
Overall, the data shows that even the wealthiest CEOs have remarkably slim odds of taking home a Mega Millions record jackpot. While executives often like to try their luck when the prizes grow especially large, the random number generator remains unswayed by wealth or prestige when determining each drawing’s big winner.
Famous Executives’ Reactions to Past Mega Millions Wins
When average individuals beat the long odds and capture Mega Millions jackpot prizes, it often makes major headlines across the nation. Here are some reactions from well-known CEOs and business leaders when past Mega Millions winners were announced:
Warren Buffett on the $1.6 billion 2016 jackpot
“I’m thrilled for the winners even though it wasn’t me. That truly is life-changing money. If I had won, I’d have funded philanthropic causes supporting education, clean energy, and other worthy recipients doing great work worldwide.”
Elon Musk on the $1.5 billion 2018 jackpot
“With a billion dollars, you could launch your own rocket! But seriously, that’s amazing for whoever won. I hope they use the money for good and have an exciting time. That kind of jackpot would open up a lot of possibilities.”
Tim Cook on the $437 million New York jackpot in 2018
“That’s larger than the biggest jackpot totals when I was growing up. I can’t imagine having that much money at once – it’s mind-boggling. I hope the winner spreads the wealth and helps out their community and those in need.”
Mary Barra on the $1.34 billion 2021 jackpot
“It’s fun to see the excitement build when Mega Millions gets above a billion dollars. Whoever won clearly beat tremendous odds. I hope they’re surrounded by good financial advice – that kind of sudden money can be overwhelming to manage.”
Jamie Dimon on the $20 million Colorado jackpot in 2022
“Everyone’s talking about the huge billion dollar jackpots, but $20 million is still an absolutely life-changing amount of money. The Colorado winner should have plenty of chances to spend quality time with loved ones and do meaningful things.”
While CEOs haven’t yet joined the winners’ circle, many express enthusiasm for record jackpots and optimism that winners – even those winning “smaller” prizes in the tens of millions – will use their sudden windfalls for positive purposes.
How Winning Mega Millions Could Impact a CEO’s Career
For a sitting CEO of a major corporation, winning a substantial Mega Millions prize could significantly impact their professional career. Some potential implications include:
Resigning from current role
With a jackpot windfall exceeding $100 million, many CEOs would likely opt to resign and leave their career positions. The sudden influx of virtually unlimited wealth could eliminate their motivation to keep grinding daily in a high-stress executive role.
Cashing out company stock options early
For CEOs of publicly traded companies, a Mega Millions jackpot could accelerate plans to exercise stock options and sell shares of company stock. With jackpot winnings flooding their bank account, company equity may become a less important part of their ongoing wealth.
Altering business strategies
If continuing in their role, a CEO who won Mega Millions may steer their company in new strategic directions aligned with personal priorities enabled by their newfound wealth. For example, they may focus more on environmental sustainability or philanthropy.
Drawing public and investor scrutiny
A CEO winning hundreds of millions in the lottery may draw criticism, questions about ethics or undue enrichment, and lead to lower confidence in their leadership from investors and the public.
Enabling increased risk-taking
With mega lottery winnings as a safety net, a CEO may feel emboldened to pursue bolder, more disruptive and risky innovation at their company. The jackpot could provide a cushion for absorbing failures.
Ultimately, while being named CEO of a billion dollar corporation is life-changing in many respects, winning Mega Millions would fundamentally redefine that executive’s relationship with money, work, and power. The ramifications could reverberate through their professional career in significant ways.
Hypothetical CEO Mega Millions Winners
Let’s have some fun imagining what various prominent CEOs might do if they actually won a record Mega Millions jackpot exceeding $500 million.
If Tesla CEO Elon Musk won $500+ million, he may pour a chunk straight into SpaceX and acceleration moon and Mars exploration. He could also donate heavily to environmental causes and research on renewable energy innovations. Even for the world’s richest man, a Mega Millions windfall could turbocharge his most ambitious goals.
The Apple CEO could direct hundreds of millions toward U.S. manufacturing initiatives, augmented and virtual reality development, and bringing more chip production back to America. He may also dramatically expand the scale of Apple’s renewable energy investments.
General Motors chief Mary Barra could funnel jackpot proceeds into pushing GM’s electric vehicle investments into overdrive. She may also expand the company’s green manufacturing infrastructure and apprenticeship programs for displaced fossil fuel workers.
JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon could leverage lottery winnings to offer special financing rates promoting renewable energy projects, affordable housing, and community development banks. He may also donate toward supporting higher education and workforce training.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink could devote Mega Millions winnings toward seeding sustainable infrastructure projects in developing nations that lack access to traditional financing channels. He could also fund climate change adaptation research.
While purely hypothetical, these scenarios illustrate how sudden Mega Millions fortunes could allow influential CEOs to more ambitiously pursue social, environmental, and innovative goals on a much grander scale.
In summary, here are some key points surrounding CEOs buying Mega Millions tickets when jackpots reach astronomical levels:
- CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett have purchased tickets, but mainly for entertainment given their already massive wealth.
- Their odds of winning remain incredibly tiny, even if buying thousands of tickets.
- No known Fortune 500 CEOs have publicly won a Mega Millions jackpot yet.
- Winning hundreds of millions could significantly impact a sitting CEO’s professional career.
- While hypothetical, giant lottery prizes would allow CEOs to attempt to address social problems on an unprecedented scale.
Ultimately, while no top executives have emerged victorious yet, the lure of a record Mega Millions jackpot can tempt even the ultra-wealthy to try their luck. And a massive cash windfall could be a game-changer, both personally and professionally, for a CEO who beats the odds and takes home the grand prize.