/Genius investor Ed Thorp predicted the pandemic’s US death toll before a single death was recorded

Genius investor Ed Thorp predicted the pandemic’s US death toll before a single death was recorded

Ed Thorp
Ed Thorp.

  • Ed Thorp accurately predicted the US COVID-19 death toll before any deaths were recorded.
  • The investor and gambler stocked up and locked down before the rest of the country.
  • Thorp estimated his own risk of dying from the virus at 2% to 4%.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Genius investor Ed Thorp predicted the pandemic’s brutal fallout, stocked up on supplies, and isolated himself weeks before authorities declared a national emergency and imposed lockdowns last year.

In early February 2020, Thorp forecast the US death toll by analyzing the number of unexplained deaths in Wuhan, and researching past pandemics such as the Spanish Flu in 1918. He went as far as calculating his own odds of dying at 2% to 4%, journalist William Green said on a recent episode of “The Acquirer’s Multiple” podcast.

“He calls his entire family together and says, ‘We’re going to lose somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 people in the US over the next 12 months,'” Green said. Thorp made the estimate before a single COVID-19 death had been recorded in the US, he added.

“A month before all of the shelves get cleared of things like detergent and toilet paper, he’s out there actually buying things like masks,” Green added.

Thorp also stopped seeing anyone except his wife, he told Green last June in an interview for the writer’s new book, “Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life.”

The investor’s precautions were vindicated in the coming months as the pandemic tore through the US. The national death toll passed 500,000, the high end of Thorp’s estimate, on February 22 this year – just over 12 months after the former math professor made his prediction.

Thorp, now 88, previously ran a hedge fund that beat the market for two decades without a losing quarter, Green said. He also pioneered card-counting in blackjack, co-invented the first wearable computer to give him an edge at the roulette table, and penned a book called “Beat the Dealer” about his exploits.

Bill Miller, a veteran investor who lost 90% of his wealth in the financial crisis but is now a billionaire thanks to Amazon stock and bitcoin, told Green that Thorp is something special.

“He’s the best, I think. As great an investor as Warren Buffett is, I think Ed Thorp is better because he figured out stuff nobody knew,” Miller said.

“Thorp’s record is just so much better and with almost no volatility, and he figured the whole thing out himself and invented statistical arbitrage,” he added.

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