Before lottery winners can start to think about how to spend their winnings they need to make the decision over whether to go public or stay anonymous. National Lottery Winners Advisor Andy Carter told The Telegraph in 2014 that just 15 percent of lottery winners given the option agree to the full publicity with a press conference and photoshoot. Whichever route you take, there are pros and cons to both courses of action.
Taking the Publicity
The UK’s biggest lottery winners were Chris and Colin Weir of Largs in Ayrshire, who banked £161.6 million on EuroMillions in July 2011. Chris stated that, had they tried to conceal the gigantic win, they “would have had to have constructed lies for our nearest and dearest. We don’t want to live like that.”
Julie Jeffrey of Hertfordshire claimed a lottery prize of £1 million in 2002 and went public because she knew it would be a very difficult secret to keep. “There is nowhere to hide,” she told Yahoo! News in 2011, “even if you only tell one person, things spread. Before you know it everybody knows.”
The worry and paranoia that come with concealing information of that type are behind a lot of winners’ decisions to accept their 15 minutes of fame and hope that the interest in them dies down so they can go about enjoying their newfound wealth. Whenever a big lottery win is claimed by someone anonymous, it is common to see newspapers put out an appeal for information on their identity. By going public, winners starve the press of the mystery and intrigue and do not have to worry about being outed by friends or acquaintances.
A key factor in lottery winners preferring to stay anonymous has to be the fear of being bombarded with begging letters. Those who claim massive jackpots in particular are reported to receive numerous requests for handouts from members of the public, some with genuine heart-wrenching stories, some less than legitimate.
There is also the concern that, if you have your news splashed across the papers, friends, neighbours or family members could feel entitled to a share and be offended if they don’t receive one or if the amount they are given is not as much as they had expected.
- It is worth noting that, whether you opt for full publicity or stay completely private, the National Lottery promises to support all winners, which includes providing legal and financial advice.
Big Anonymous Lottery Prizes
The two largest lottery prizes won in the UK were claimed by players who chose to go public. The Weirs top the chart and are followed by the Bayfords from Suffolk, who pocketed £148.6 million on EuroMillions in August 2012. However, the winner of the third-biggest haul has managed to keep out of the limelight, despite various rumours about their identity spreading around the internet following their £113 million EuroMillions jackpot win in October 2010.
In total, four out of the ten top UK lottery wins were by ticket holders who stayed anonymous. Here is the full list:
|12th July 2011||EuroMillions||£161,653,000*||Chris and Colin Weir of Largs, Ayrshire|
|10th August 2012||EuroMillions||£148,656,000||Adrian and Gillian Bayford of Haverhill, Suffolk|
|8th October 2010||EuroMillions||£113,019,926||Anonymous|
|14th March 2014||EuroMillions||£107,932,603||Neil Trotter of Coulsdon, Surrey|
|7th October 2011||EuroMillions||£101,203,600||Dave and Angela Dawes of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire|
|12th June 2015||EuroMillions||£93,388,944||Anonymous|
|14th May 2010||EuroMillions||£84,451,320||Anonymous|
|28th May 2013||EuroMillions||£81,381,673||Anonymous|
|12th February 2010||EuroMillions||£56,008,113||Nigel Page of Cirencester, Gloucestershire|
|31st March 2015||EuroMillions||£53,193,914||Richard and Angela Maxwell of Coningsby, Lincolnshire|
*The Weirs’ prize is the largest won in sterling but, at €185 million, had a lower Euro value than the Bayfords’ €190 million. This converted to £148.6 million at the time due to the exchange rates, putting them second in the list of prizes won in sterling.
The fact that far more than 15 percent of the big winners allowed themselves to be unveiled shows the difficulty of disguising the change in lifestyle that comes with such a massive windfall. Awards of £50,000 or £100,000 might be easy to explain away or disguise, but an eight or nine-figure sum and the mansions, fast cars and tropical holidays that come with it will certainly raise eyebrows.