Ohio waitress wins CNBC stock-picking contest

/ Source: The Associated Press

CNBC said Friday a waitress who has never bought a stock won the business news channel’s much-hyped $1 million stock-picking contest, after several contestants were disqualified for violating the game’s rules.

Mary Sue Williams, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, was named the winner of the Million Dollar Portfolio Contest. She beat 377,000 participants in a challenge to post the greatest return on a simulated investment of $1 million that was based on actual stock prices.

The announcement of a winner was delayed after some participants alleged others may have taken advantage of glitches in CNBC’s software that allowed trades after markets had closed. There were also allegations that contestants manipulated real stocks to drive gains for their fictitious portfolios.

CNBC spokesman Kevin Goldman confirmed that some participants were disqualified but would not say how many or for what reason. The winner had originally been due to be announced July 8.

According to reports, Williams, 46, ranked sixth in the latest available standings from late May.

In early June, CNBC said it hired securities and computer experts to investigate several ways people may have cheated and that it would disqualify anyone found to have violated the rules.

After hyping the contest on the air in the run-up to and during the challenge, CNBC issued only a basic announcement of Williams’ victory on its Web site Friday. The statement did not mention the disqualified participants.

CNBC, a unit of the NBC Universal division of General Electric Co., said Williams will receive $100,000 in a lump-sum payment and then $36,000 a year for the next 25 years.

Speaking on the network after it announced her victory, Williams said she would probably use most of the money to pay for her two daughters to go to college. The career waitress said she had never watched CNBC before the contest and has never bought a stock in her life, but thought she could win the free contest.

“I thought I could do just as well as anyone else,” she said on CNBC.

Williams, who was a welder before starting to wait tables, said she invested in companies that make products she uses, such as rust repellent WD-40.

Goldman said traffic at CNBC.com increased sharply during the contest, but that the company will not run the same challenge again. CNBC does have plans for another Web-based contest, probably in the fall, he said.