Tenn. man wins a third of $1.6B Powerball
Nashville, Tenn. — A small-town warehouse supervisor turned in one of three tickets splitting the world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot on Friday, and swiftly announced that he would take his money now, giving up hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.
But John Robinson and his wife, Lisa, said they won’t stop working and won’t make any wild purchases. They’ll pay off their mortgage and their daughter’s student loans, but have no desire to move from their small, gray, one-story house into a luxurious compound somewhere.
“I’ve never wanted that in the past. I don’t really want that now,” said Lisa Robinson, who works in a dermatologist’s office.
“Big houses are nice,” her husband said, “But also you gotta clean ‘em.”
Robinson said he reached out to his brother for help finding lawyers and financial planners before deciding to take the winnings in a single lump sum of nearly $328 million, rather than let the lottery invest the prize and pay him 30 annual installments totaling an estimated $533 million.
Why pass up on a certain income totaling more than $200 million?
“We’re going to take the lump sum, because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” Robinson said. “We just wanted a little big piece of the pie. Now we’re real grateful we got the big piece of the pie.”
No one has produced the other winning tickets, which overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all six numbers at a Publix supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, California.
In California, any winnings not claimed within a year automatically go to the state’s schools. Florida gives winners six months to come forward before transferring 80 percent of unclaimed prizes to an educational trust fund, and 20 percent into a pool for future lottery prizes.
The Robinsons said they have no plans to leave Munford, the town of about 6,000 north of Memphis where they both went to high school.
And both plan to return to work on Monday, because “that’s what we’ve done all our lives, is work,” Robinson said.
“You just can’t sit down and lay down and not do nothing anymore. How long are you going to last?” he asked.
Tennessee Lottery executive Rebecca Hargrove said the couple would get a “small check today for a few million,” and collect the full lump sum in about 10 business days.
Robinson said earlier Friday that they would help certain friends, give to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and donate to their church.
“I’m a firm believer in tithing to my church,” Robinson said in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.
The couple has a son, Adam, who works as an electrician, and a daughter, Tiffany, who lives nearby in her late grandparents’ home.
Tiffany said she also wants a horse.
“My first thought was, I’ve always wanted a horse,” she said. “I get a horse now. My dad always said, “When I win the lottery.’ ”
Robinson carried the precious slip of paper to New York City and back before showing up at Tennessee’s lottery headquarters. Their lawyer went with the family, as did their rescue dog, Abby, who snoozed through most of the excitement.
Lawyers who have represented other winners advise against going public until they have made plans with experts in tax law, financial planning, privacy, security and other safeguards to protect themselves and their winnings.
The Robinsons did ask for privacy on Friday.
Their neighbor Mary Sue Smith told the AP that Lisa Robinson asked her to put “No Trespassing” signs on their lawn while they were away.
“Who will be coming out of the woodwork?” said Mary Sue Smith. “Everybody you knew in high school and elementary … You know what happens.”
Her husband, Roy Smith, called them “fine people,” dependable and hard-working.
“It could not have happened to better people,” Roy Smith said. “He’s a civic-minded person, and he probably will remember the town.”
Munford’s mayor, Dwayne Cole, had wished openly Thursday for an investment in the town, whose annual budget is $3.67 million. He said Munford’s needs include fire department equipment, an indoor athletic facility for local schools and a community gymnasium.
On Friday, Cole told the AP that they are not the kind to squander their money.
“They’re small town people who appreciate community, appreciate family values. They appreciate hard work. They are responsible. They’ve always lived within their means,” said Cole, who owns an auto parts store in town.
“They have to understand, though, this is a big deal. This is not just a big deal for Munford. This is a big deal nationwide and worldwide. They understand that, I think. I hope they do,” Cole added. “I believe they can deal with it. It may be totally overwhelming.”
Robinson said he bought the winning ticket at his wife’s request.