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Special Event

Larry Ross, Big Game Lottery Winner, Holds Press Briefing on New Life

Aired May 12, 2000 - 11:02 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Governor John Engler now at the podium there. We will listen in now as we are about to be announced and introduced to the winner.


GOV. JOHN ENGLER, MICHIGAN: This is the kind of a day that I suppose, if you are the other lottery commissioner, I told Don Gilmer, when I asked him to take over the lottery, that I thought it would be an exciting job for him, and I thought he would be well-suited for it. Little did I know that he would become in short order such a record- setting lottery commissioner, but, the Big Game is indeed that.

And for a very special announcement, a historic announcement, I would like to introduce the lottery commissioner for the state of Michigan, Mr. Don Gilmer.


I would first like to make a few remarks. Lotteries exist in 37 states and the District of Columbia. And to reduce it to its simplest terms, lotteries exist for two basic purposes. And one and the most important of all is the public beneficiaries of lottery. Every single state lottery gives their money back to a public purpose, and in Michigan its K-12 education. And last year, we gave away to the school aid fund $621 million. So the real winners are the kids in Michigan.

And secondly, I think it's the excitement. It's the dreams that people can have. How many people stood around the water cooler this week and said, gosh, what if, what if. And that, I think, has great value.

Lotteries have partners. Our first partner is obviously our players. Without it, we could not be successful. And secondly, it's our retailers, because they make it available to the lottery players, and we appreciate their support.

Michigan is part of the Big Game family, and the Big Game family is made up of Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and, of course, Illinois and Michigan. And I'm certainly happy to be here because Michigan and Illinois are sharing in the largest jackpot in North America ever at $383 million. So it's my pleasure to introduce Michigan's winning family from Shelby Township, the Ross family, Larry and Nancy Ross and their children, who we're happy to have them here.


I would like to present to Larry and Nancy, on behalf of the entire family, their share, which is $181,500,000.


All right. And, for Nancy, there you go.



LARRY ROSS, BIG GAME LOTTERY WINNER: Thank you. Thank you governor. Thank you, Don.

GILMER: Thank you.

Now, Larry will -- and Nancy will attempt to answer any and all of your questions. If it gets out of control, I'll try to step a little interference in here. But if Larry wants to make some comments or he wants -- and we'll let him handle it the best way he wants to.

ROSS: OK, thanks.

Hi, everybody. This is our core family here. This is my wife, Nancy; my daughter, Shannon; my oldest son, Eric, and his wife, Jamie; my oldest son, Ian -- my second son, Ian, and his fiancee, Katie.

And now that that's done...


QUESTION: Larry, would you describe the moment when...

ROSS: Well, we were shocked. We bought the tickets -- I was at lunch with one of my guys and we stopped at Mr. K's Party Store and bought a hot dog and I told the guy, my wife told me to buy some lottery tickets because I'm not -- don't normally buy lottery tickets. I'm not an everyday buyer. So everybody out there that doesn't buy lottery tickets, it really does happen.

And I told the guy to give me the rest in change in Lotto tickets and that was it.

Now, it was 98, I think -- 98.

QUESTION: You're saying that you won with change from a hot dog?

ROSS: Yes. I had hundred dollar bill. That's all I had. And then I asked the guy to give me the change in Lotto tickets.

QUESTION: You bought just one ticket? ROSS: No, I bought 98 tickets -- the balance of the hot dog.


QUESTION: Question is where were you on the day it was announced? I mean, we were looking everywhere.

ROSS: Well, here's what happened. Here's what happened. That morning -- we didn't check the ticket the night before. As I was driving home, I had a note pad there and I heard the Lotto ticket -- the numbers. And as I was driving home, I was trying to jot them down, but it was dark in my truck. And I'm writing down these numbers, and the number 4, I got the gold ball, and I had written down six numbers plus the gold ball. I had written down number 31 in there in between.

So, the following morning, I got up and Nancy said, oh, these are the lottery tickets you bought. I left them on the counter because I didn't see a number 4 on the gold ball. I said, well, we didn't win nothing because we don't have a number 4. And she says, it's right here in the front. And so I woke up and we went out and looked at them and she just happened to turn on the TV, and the guy I bought the tickets from was on television, George Kassab's son. So I said, this is just too freaky. That's the guy I bought the tickets from. And he said -- I said, well, get the ticket. Let's check these numbers again. So the next thing you know, the number comes on the screen and I'm looking and I says, Jesus, they match.

So I told Don and my wife, I said, I invented a new dance. I just started doing the Lotto dance and jumping up and down. And I didn't believe it so I went and I called the party store. I'm the nervous guy they told you about that called the party store, and said: What do I do with this ticket? They gave me the numbers again, I still didn't believe him. So I called the lottery commission and got ahold of Sarah, and she confirmed the ticket on the phone for me. And from that moment on the ticket went into a plastic wrapper and never left my hand.

QUESTION: What kind of job -- what occupation are you in?

ROSS: We are swimming pool installers and service people.

QUESTION: Are you going to continue working?

ROSS: Is that a trick question?

We plan on -- I do have some customers that we have scheduled to do. I would like them all to know that if anybody watches this that we will take care of them, we are going -- we are in the process now of hopefully, if my son wants to transfer everything over for him to handle, and the other employees handle with him. We will try to make it as smooth a transformation as we can, any problems we have pending, any warranty work we have pending will be done for the people.

And, that is basically what I'd like everybody to know.

We just have a few -- we are a small company.

ENGLER: I want Larry to Tell everybody the name of company, I don't want to say there's any omen or anything.

ROSS: It is Bush Pools.

ENGLER: Bush pools, Bush, so the name's "Bush."

QUESTION: Is the way you feel right now compared to what you thought when you were thinking "what if" -- saying...

ROSS: No, no, we, we, you know you always have the dreams of: well if I did this I'd go buy a Caribbean island or I'd do -- well, we're like, in a stunned mode right now. We don't -- we are just happy, we are glad, we are really humbled, we are happy for all those, we are happy everybody bought tickets. And we wish that everybody else could win and feel the same way we do. It's -- it's -- it's phenomenal, it's -- we are in a daze really, and I haven't slept in three days. And I told the governor, I said: it's a great diet program, win the lotto and lose weight. I haven't eaten in three days, so.

QUESTION: Do you always listen to your wife?

ROSS: Pardon?

QUESTION: Do you always listen to your wife?

ROSS: Do I always listen to my wife? Well, I'd let her answer that. That's -- but that was greatest time I ever did listen to my wife.

QUESTION: Did you have security concerns? You got this incredible ticket.

ROSS: Yes, that's why we came up forward immediately, I had talked to Sarah and asked her had the -- had the -- we had talked -- immediately we -- I got on the phone, and I started calling people. I started calling financial planners, I called attorneys, I called -- it was funny that I called -- I wanted to remain anonymous. I told Sarah that obviously for our safety, we had to remain anonymous and we called a couple of financial planners and I got their secretaries, and they said: well, they're busy, they're at lunch. And I said: well, they'll want to talk to me. And, they called us right back, immediately, and I just was hoping that they didn't have caller ID and I guess they didn't.

QUESTION: So you've been seeing this guy, cheat sheet?

ROSS: I heard about -- the person we have chosen to handle most of our financial arrangements and his law partner, which I really don't want to disclose their names at this particular moment, have called me and told me about the cheat sheet story. As a matter of fact, one of his brothers is in the news press, the attorney's brother, and he had called him and said: we know who it is. And, somebody was buying drinks in a bar, or something and, yes, cheat sheet, we heard the story.


ROSS: We don't know, we bought a whole lot of security for our whole family, that's all we know. We -- we are going to deposit the money. We are not going to do anything rash. We are going to wait 90 days before we buy anything, I think. We are going to invest wisely. We are going to take care of everyone in our immediate family, everybody will get a part of the purse. We are going to -- we haven't decided anybody else that we are going to donate money on, we will -- my wife is interested in charity work. We have not determined any charities as of yet. We will determine and I imagine everybody will know. We will put the money to use for something good. We will not flounder it.

QUESTION: When you were in the "what if" stage, what, you know, when you were saying: oh God, if I won this I would -- what were you thinking?

ROSS: There is a couple of things, one thing that comes to mind has been a -- actually it is my wife's -- my wife, since we have known each other for 28, or, make it 28 years, has always wanted a purple Jaguar. And we talk about it every year, we have never been able to before to buy one, I guess we can now. And that probably will be one of our first purchases along with, I have been told by many people that we should move. So, that will probably be in making.


ROSS: A ranch home, in Shelby Township with four bedrooms.


ROSS: We don't know yet, we don't know. But we have, we have, we have responsibilities, that is the whole idea: someplace where we know we'll get a little bit of peace eventually. But, we have some responsibility to my daughter who is still in school and this is her final month. And, we are hoping to -- our game plan is to cater to the press as much as we can for the next four, five days if we have to, we don't care. And hopefully we can get some peace so my daughter can finish her schooling and then we will probably just leave for a while.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that friends may treat you differently after this?

ROSS: I think that will be a problem that will be -- have to -- dealt with. You know, there'll -- I'm sure there will be some animosities, I'm sure there will be, you know, then they are not friends.

QUESTION: Did -- was there anyone lined up outside your door?

ROSS: Well, we have he been -- we have been missing in action since the -- we came to the lotto the one day. It was all my fault, I had called that morning and talked to Sarah. And gave her the val -- she gave me the validation on the ticket, and not being used to coming to collect $180 million, I said to my wife: let's get dressed jump in the car. So, we are going to get our money. So, I didn't call them back, and tell them we were coming. And for the reporters that were sitting outside, and we had to think of something to do so we wouldn't be barraged for next two days. So we came up with the $150,000 winner check that everybody has seen. Then when we got home, we still had visits from up to until 10:00 at night from several of the local news channels. And after that we determined we should leave, we left that night, we packed our bags and went to the Bavarian Inn.


ROSS: It's not even important anymore.

QUESTION: Would you mind giving us just a couple of basics? We may be in here, but we don't know how old you are.

ROSS: I'm -- I'll be 48 this month.

QUESTION: And what is your title, at your -- the company you work at?

ROSS: I'm the owner.

QUESTION: The owner.

ROSS: Yes, I'm the owner

QUESTION: How long have you been married?

ROSS: Twenty-five years.

QUESTION: You're 47 now?

ROSS: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Will you say again?

ROSS: Yes, I will, yes, I will.


ROSS: We are financially stable, we are like everybody else. We have debt, you know, we have mortgage payments to make. We have home equity payments to make that we have borrowed on, we have -- we're not wealthy, you know. Let's put it that way, we weren't wealthy.

QUESTION: Had you played the lottery before?

ROSS: I had but not very often. My wife had -- actually we bought a couple tickets, here or there. But not -- we were not regular players no.

QUESTION: You didn't really expect to win, I mean, did you...

ROSS: No, absolutely, no, I had -- no, nobody I think ever expects to win, they just hope. You dream, you dream you could win and the hardest part about this whole are ordeal has been, we have informed all our families and just our tightest part of our family, of the winnings, and just had to tell everybody please be quiet. And, it had worked, everybody had been quiet.

QUESTION: Do you plan on calling any other lotto winners or lottery winners to get any advice?

ROSS: My attorney as a matter of fact, had handled another lotto winner. And he had talked to me already and told me that he plans on putting me in contact with him to let us know what we can expect, which I'm sure we have no idea.

QUESTION: So you switched to the lump sum from, it was originally you were...

ROSS: When I bought the ticket, the guy -- I didn't know what he meant, OK. He said: do you want an annuity or you want money, and I said: I don't know, what's the difference? And I said: well, just give me the annuity, I had no idea what he was talking about because I wasn't really familiar with it.

QUESTION: What about the store? the discrepancy in what Illinois got as commission? Do you think you'll throw a little at the store...

ROSS: We haven't determined that yet, and really that's between state and Mr. -- whatever his name is -- Kassab. He had nice things to say about us in the paper that I read that said, he hopes that the family that won is well. So I have nothing derogatory to say about him.

QUESTION: So you don't plan on maybe sharing anything with him right now..

ROSS: I have no plans on what to do right now, I'm -- I'm -- I'm -- I just really don't have a comment on that issue.

QUESTION: Can we talk with your wife for a second?

ROSS: Sure.

DAWN ROSS, LOTTERY WINNER: He is my spokesperson, he is the one to talk to.


ROSS: I guess, it is like everybody else's dream: we dreamed to retire and I dreamed to have a nice -- buy a ni -- a new car, and a big home. And, I guess I would like to start a new job playing golf, you know. I just -- and, maybe a boat's in our future. I have never -- we haven't had a summer vacation in 13 years. The last vacation we had as a family was our parents took us to -- my mom and dad took to us all to Disney World about six years ago. But that was at the end of the summer of course. And, my wife and daughter usually go camping every year while I'm working, we love to -- they love to -- we visited the Pinery Provincial Park in Canada for about the last 25 years.


ROSS: Anywhere from 80 to 100.


ROSS: No, just summer season.

QUESTION: Mr. Ross, any apprehensions?

ROSS: Yes, we have some concerns, you know, we, part of the -- you know, you have ecstasy of winning, and then you start realizing the agony of what might happen. You got, you got security problems now, you think about your family, who is at risk. We are not in a very secured neighborhood. I, mean we are in a nice, middle class neighborhood, but we don't have security that like, you know, rich people have. And, we'll have to look at those concerns.

Our financial people and our attorneys have called me this morning. We do have realtors working already to try and get us something where we won't be too harassed. We will be on the run for the next five or six days, I guess.


ROSS: We will cancel our phone. I have been trying to leave it on so that people that we do have pending on business don't just get a disconnect number and freak out.

QUESTION: What kind of car do you drive now?

ROSS: We have a leased Cherokee, and I have an old couple of work trucks, '93 Ford and an '87 Ford.



ROSS: Yes, we will stay in Michigan, We love Michigan. My wife's father, before he passed away, he bought a piece of property up north, and she thinks that we would like to maybe build a place up there.

QUESTION: Do you think you will be happier now?

ROSS: I don't know. I don't know. We will --- We are going to be -- We are a pretty tight family, and we will be the same people. I mean, obviously, we are going to have more toys. But we will be the same personably. I gave always been a pretty personable person, I like to joke around, I like to laugh, and I like people.

QUESTION: Are you a Republican or a Democrat?

ROSS: No comment. Politician?


ROSS: No she is a 7th grader.


ROSS: Yes, sir, we will. We will continue to support, hopefully, the next person that wins can get some of it back.

QUESTION: What are thoughts about with all this wealth keeping your kids nose to the grindstone in school, job, can you talk about that?

ROSS: We'll have -- what we plan on doing is my kids are pretty well to the grindstone right now, they are very down to earth, and they are very smart, and I think we will stay all together. We will hold it together.


ROSS: pardon?


ROSS: Well, everybody will be everybody -- yeah, will want something I know.


ROSS: Well, we are going to have a family meeting after sometime when we can get back home with everybody in our immediate family, and determine how we are going to make everybody's dreams come true.


ROSS: Just on the run.

QUESTION: What day was that?

ROSS: I don't recall.

QUESTION: Was that Monday?

QUESTION: Are you still going to go up to the Pinery, are you going to spend any money up there?

ROSS: I imagine, my wife loves the place. We have supported the Pinery for, jeez, I bet 30 years now, since I was in high school we went up there, and you know, and we have went there ever since. So we will probably continue camping there.


ROSS: They heard us. The ones that were at home were with us in the living room when we watched TV, and the other ones we called immediately, and they didn't believe me of course. And as my voice got shriller and the tears got bigger, they started to believe me, as well as everybody in our family, we called right away, and just told them to keep mum, and you are not going to believe this, and wait until it breaks, that it is quite amazing.


ROSS: I have been in store before, yes, they sell like hot dogs and pizza, and it is a good run-in place to grab something while you are on the go.

QUESTION: They were all quick picks?

ROSS: yes, they were all Easy Picks.

QUESTION: Mr. Ross, are you religious at all? Do you go to church?

ROSS: No, sir, no, we don't have any direct religious beliefs, neither for or against.


ROSS: Sure, I think everybody can handle that -- Ian.

IAN ROSS: My name is Ian. I am 21.

KATIE NIEMASB: My name is Katie, I am 20.

QUESTION: And your last name please?

NIEMASB: Niemasb.

JANINE ROSS: Hi, my name, Janine Ross, and I am 24.

ERIC ROSS: My name is Eric and I am 25.

SHANNON ROSS: I'm Shannon, and I'm 12.

NANCY ROSS: And I'm Nancy, and I'm 46.


ROSS: Actually, because, when the kids are off school in the summer I'm working, and when they are at school in the winter, we can't pull them out of school. All right.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Are you having fun?

ROSS: We are starting to. We have been very nervous, and not having fun for a few days, like I said it has been very difficult sleeping and impossible to eat, and drink anything. So...


ROSS: Well, we thought that we had talked to the lotto commission, and we had thought that we had talk to some other people, and it was we felt in our best interests to deal with the press on their terms, and hopefully answer everything we can answer, and that way, you won't have to wonder, and then we can hopefully live our lives in peace.

QUESTION: Where you going now?

ROSS: You mean when we leave here?


ROSS: I guess we've got plans for a radio interview, and try to sneak away for a night.

GILMER: That is a good way to end it. Because we did encourage the Ross family to do this, because we recognize your professionals, and that you have a job to do, and so to help you do your job, hopefully, that will allow you to let the Rosses, you know, live a reasonably peaceful life. I certainly want to thank all media, you know, from all over, and I mean it is.

HEMMER: Talk about IN THE MONEY, Larry Ross and his family now the proud owners of a winning lottery ticket, $181 million worth. A number of comments there. Larry had the whole newsroom smiling throughout his press conference there in Lansing, Michigan. He said he still describes family as shocked and stunned right now, but he bought the ticket in Utica, Michigan, about 20 miles north of Detroit. he said he bought a hot dog at lunchtime, gave the guy $100, and upon his wife's recommendation, said give me the change in lottery tickets, that was 98 tickets, $98 worth and, again, the winner was in there.

He said, I invented a new dance, it is called the "lottery dance." He also has a swimming pool business there, called Bush Pools, and he wanted to reassure his customers that he will not quit his job until the current jobs are finished and they are taken care of for the spring and summer months.

He said, he will deposit the money, invest it wisely and wait about 90 days before buying anything, but he did indicated that his wife has wanted a purple Jaguar for a very long time.

In addition to that, he said, quote, "We will put money to work for the good. We will not flounder it. And we are going to have a lot of toys." Toys, indeed, that is a wrap from Lansing, Michigan. A lot of cash.



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