The committee calls the winners before announcing the names to the world each year. It’s always a decent hour in Stockholm — the middle of the day — but that means it is the middle of the night on the US West Coast.
But Milgrom couldn’t be reached, so his neighbor — and fellow prize winner — Robert Wilson stepped up and walked over to Milgrom’s house.
“Paul, it’s Bob Wilson,” Wilson says. “You’ve won the Nobel Prize. And so they’re trying to reach you, but they cannot. They don’t seem to have a number for you.”
“We gave them your cell phone number,” Wilson’s wife, Mary, says.
A moment of silence follows.
“Yeah, I have? Wow,” Milgrom responds from the other side of the door.
“Will you answer your phone?” Wilson’s wife asks with a laugh.
Milgrom and Wilson, both professors at Stanford University, received the prize for their work in auction theory.
The professors “used their insights to design new auction formats for goods and services that are difficult to sell in a traditional way, such as radio frequencies,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
“Their discoveries have benefited sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.”
It’s not the first time the call from Stockholm has been missed by an American winner.
In 2010, Martin Chalfie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien, but he slept through the call.
CNN’s Isaac Engleberg contributed to this report.