The £161m question: why do big winners go public?
Saturday 16 July 2011
The names and faces of Colin and Christine Weir may not remain in the public's consciousness for quite as long as some of the people whose worldly wealth theirs now exceeds – David Bowie, Kylie Minogue, Ringo Starr, Phil Collins – but their decision to go public is an increasingly rare one among lottery winners in an increasingly media-savvy world.
"We would have preferred to stay anonymous, but we recognised it wasn't a possibility," said Christine, sitting in front of a wall of lottery logos as the flash bulbs fired off around her. "We wouldn't have been able to enjoy the experience if we had constructed lies to tell our nearest and dearest."
There is, of course, a difference between constructing a story to conceal your win from everyone, and agreeing to a grandiose press conference, with the obligatory (and rather embarrassing) champagne-spraying photographs.
But Mr and Mrs Weir are far from the only winners after ajackpot of this magnitude. "Camelot love it when people go public," said PR agent Mark Borkowski. "They love it. Ifeveryone remained anonymous, how do you get people to think it might be them who could win £161m?
"You need people prepared to go and sit on a sofa in a hotel in front of a bank of flashing cameras. They might even think it's a good idea. Maybe they want to be famous. But suddenly every nitwit and idiot in the world is after you. You'd end up spending half your money on protecting yourself. I'd advise anyone in that situation to keep schtum, but I'm sure there is a persuasive power worked on them to do it."
"Of course it's fantastic for us," said a spokesperson for Camelot. "We get to celebrate their win as well." But the organisation maintains there are advantages to telling the world you are considerably richer than them.
"People worry about the web of lies they have to construct, and the minute it gets out the news spreads like wildfire. A lot of winners find it difficult to communicate their win to all their friends. Holding a press conference takes all that away," the spokesperson continued. "We tell people what to expect if they choose to go public. The media interest, the interest from other people. The choice is entirely up to them. But it'd be challenging to conceal a prize like £161m."
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