Tennessee man confirmed as 1 of 3 Powerball winners of $1.6B US jackpot

A small-town warehouse supervisor turned in one of three tickets splitting the world-record $1.6-billion US Powerball jackpot and swiftly announced that he would take his money now, giving up hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.

'Now I'll be nervous because everybody knows,' John Robinson tells Today show after win

John Robinson, right, arrives at the Tennessee Lottery headquarters with his wife, Lisa, and his daughter, Tiffany, on Friday in Nashville. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

A small-town warehouse supervisor turned in one of three tickets splitting the world-record $1.6 billion US Powerball jackpot and swiftly announced that he would take his money now, giving up hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.

John Robinson said he reached out to his brother for help assembling a team of lawyers and financial planners before deciding to take the winnings in a single lump sum of nearly $328 million US, rather than let the lottery invest the prize and pay him 30 annual instalments totaling an estimated $533 million US.

"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."

They have no plans to move from their small, grey, one-storey house in Munford, a town of about 6,000 north of Memphis.

"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.

Robinson brought his dog with him to the Tennessee Lottery headquarters on Friday. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

"Big houses are nice," her husband said, "But also you gotta clean 'em."

They'll pay off their mortgage and their daughter's student loans, but don't plan any big purchases. Both plan to return to work on Monday.

"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?"

Tennessee Lottery executive Rebecca Hargrove said the couple would get a "small cheque 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.

'I get a horse now'

Their daughter Tiffany, who flew with them to New York and back, is looking forward to paying off her student loans. 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.'"

The other tickets were sold in Melbourne Beach, Fla., and Chino Hills, Calif., each one overcoming odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all the numbers. Lottery officials in those states have yet to confirm or identify the winners. News of a possible winner in California was quickly deflated Friday when that feel-good tale was described as a prank.

Robinson carried the precious slip of paper to New York City and back before delivering the ticket Friday to lottery officials in Nashville.

"Now I'll be nervous because everybody knows,"  Robinson told his interviewers on the Today show set, where he appeared with his wife, daughter and lawyer. He even brought the family dog to New York and back, walking the pet on a leash into lottery headquarters in Nashville later Friday.

Lawyers warn winners about going public

The Robinsons said their lawyer advised them to appear on national TV even before presenting the ticket to lottery officials as a way to "control" the story.

Lawyers who have represented other lottery winners advise against going public until they are ready to manage such a huge windfall. Talking seriously with experts in tax law, financial planning, privacy, security and other safeguards can help keep them, and their winnings, safe, they say.

The Robinsons seemed aware of at least some of the risks, even as they flew to New York to tell the world that their future income has suddenly grown.

Robinson did say that he had signed the back of the ticket, showing his ownership of it.

"It's not going very far," John Robinson said on Today, holding tight to the slip of paper.

When the Today show anchors said they were nervous for the Robinsons, walking around New York with the ticket, Lisa Robinson joked: "You can help escort us out."

The winning Powerball numbers are shown after being drawn at the Florida Lottery studio in Tallahassee, Fla. on Wednesday night. The numbers were 8-27-34-4-19 and the Powerball number 10. (Philip Sears/Reuters)

Their neighbour, Mary Sue Smith, told The Associated Press that Lisa Robinson asked her Friday morning to put "No Trespassing" signs on their lawn while they're away from their modest single-family home in Munford.

"Who will be coming out of the woodwork?" said Mary Sue Smith, their neighbour since about 1995. "The thought is not reporters, but everybody you knew in high school and elementary ... You know what happens."

Robinson is a warehouse supervisor and his wife is employed at a dermatologist's office. Their son, Adam, is an electrician, and their daughter, Tiffany, who lives nearby, is a recent college graduate. They also have a second home nearby where Robinson "loves to fish," said acquaintance Roy Smith, who described them as "fine people," dependable and hard-working.

"It could not have happened to better people," he said. "He's a civic-minded person, and he probably will remember the town."

Rebecca Hargrove, left, president and CEO of the Tennessee Lottery, presents a check to Dana Naifeh, right, owner of Naifeh's Grocery in Munford, Tenn. John Robinson said he stopped at the family-owned store on his way home from work at his wife's urging and now holds a winning ticket. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press)


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated John Robinson’s job. It said Robinson works in information technology. He is a warehouse supervisor.
    Jan 15, 2016 4:44 PM ET


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