Pulling pranks, bidding for Yahoo, and launching a $1 billion basketball stunt: Rocket founder Dan Gilbert and Warren Buffett are close friends with a colorful past

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

  • Rocket Companies, which owns Quicken Loans, went public on Thursday, boosting founder and chairman Dan Gilbert’s fortune to about $34 billion.
  • Gilbert is close friends with Warren Buffett and has partnered with the investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO several times over the years.
  • For example, Gilbert and Buffett pranked Quicken employees with a fake sale in 2014, Berkshire insured a $1 billion Quicken marketing stunt the same year, and Buffett agreed to finance a bid for Yahoo by Gilbert and other investors that ultimately failed.
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Rocket Companies’ founder and chairman Dan Gilbert saw his net worth soar to $34 billion after the parent company of mortgage lender Quicken Loans went public on Thursday.

Gilbert — who is also the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team and the founder and controlling shareholder of StockX, the online sneaker marketplace — now boasts a fortune roughly half the size of Warren Buffett’s, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The famed investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO will likely be cheering Gilbert on, as the pair have been friends and occasional business partners for years.

“I’m an enormous admirer of Dan and what he has accomplished in Quicken Loans,” Buffett told CNBC in May 2016.

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Rocket didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Pledges, prizes, and pranks

Gilbert and Buffett first met at a conference years ago, and became acquainted over lunch in Buffett’s hometown of Omaha, according to Reuters.

In 2012, Gilbert signed the Giving Pledge, which Buffett launched with Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to give away at least half of their fortunes to philanthropic causes.

Gilbert roped in Buffett two years later, when Quicken’s marketing team wanted to hold a competition with a $1 billion reward for any contestant who filled out a perfect bracket for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

No one succeeded, but Quicken paid Berkshire an estimated $10 million premium to insure the prize, according to Crain’s Detroit Business

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Gilbert also interviewed Buffett at an event called Detroit Homecoming in 2014. The pair revealed backstage that they pranked most of Quicken’s management team on April Fools’ Day that year: Gilbert falsely claimed that Berkshire had bought the company, and Buffett played along on a video call, Crain’s Detroit Business reported.

“I go along with whatever he comes up with, and so far I haven’t gone to jail,” Buffett joked at the time.

Buffett also agreed to finance a group of investors including Gilbert when they tried to buy internet titan Yahoo in 2016, Reuters said. The consortium’s bid ultimately failed.

There’s no mention of Buffett beyond the basketball stunt in Rocket’s initial public offering filing. However, in light of their tie-ups over the years, it would be no surprise if Gilbert name-checks him during future interviews and earnings calls.

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