When Colin and Christine Weir scooped a whopping £161 million in the EuroMillions draw last year they were unsure about whether to share their astonishing good news. Letting the world know that they were now nearly as rich as the Beckhams would surely come with its own price tag.
But the husband and wife from Largs in Ayreshire, decided it would be too difficult to keep their burgeoning riches from friends and family. Christine, a retired psychiatric nurse, said: “We would have had to have constructed lies for our nearest and dearest. We don’t want to live like that.”
Why do big winners go public?
As well as deciding how they’ll spend their wads, jackpot winners have the tough decision as to whether to stay anonymous or embrace their millions publicly.
Julie Jeffrey, 50, from Hertfordshire, who won £1 million on the lottery in 2002, told Yahoo! News: “I went public for the same reason the majority of people do - there is nowhere to hide.
“Even if you only tell one person, things spread. Before you know it everybody knows. And if you don’t take publicity, Camelot can’t acknowledge your existence, so they can’t help you or provide a back up.”
“We were in a position where our wages saw us through and we could take a holiday every year, but it was in my sister-in-law’s caravan. If we had suddenly started going on fancy trips abroad people would have noticed. We would have still had the unwanted attention, but Camelot would not have been able to help.”
“The only instance where people wouldn’t notice, is if you were already a millionaire – so your lifestyle wouldn’t change, or if you left your friends and family and lived abroad.”
Ron Ullah, 65, from Ipswich, won £5,177,425 in October 2002. He agrees: “I took the decision to go public because I thought it would be impossible to keep £5 million quiet. Someone was bound to find out and I wanted to be in control of the way it was handled.”
What are the pros and cons of going public?
A spokesman from Camelot says: “Opting for publicity allows the lottery winner to enjoy ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ but it does mean that the world knows exactly who they are, and that can lead to them receiving begging letters and other types of unwanted attention.”
Indeed, since their big win, the Weirs have received a barrage of letters begging for a slice of their new found fortune.
Mrs Jeffrey adds: “The Weirs will be getting a lot of support from Camelot who will advise them on what to do about the letters. I can pick up the phone whenever I need advice and they are there. If you don’t take publicity you are out on your own.”
“These days you’re not a big story if you win one, two or three million. There was nothing negative about going public for us. It actually protects you from the potentially negative stuff. If we were to get begging letters like the Weirs are getting, Camelot are there as moral support.
“The best thing about it is being able to meet other winners. Camelot organise parties every month around the country, and the other winners are like a support system. No one else understands what it’s like. “
Do Camelot offer winners an incentive for going public?
If a winner chooses not to go public they’re not entitled to support from the Camelot press office in dealing with the problems that come with being a lottery winner. Camelot does offer support to all jackpot winners through their winners advisor, who they can remain in touch with if they wish, but the press office can only offer media support if a winner goes public.
Vicky Radcliffe from Camelot says: “It is entirely the choice of the ticket-holder. Jackpot winners meet with their winner advisor at the time of their validation and are given all the publicity options, including the chance to remain anonymous.
“It is down to the winners to decide whether going public is the right option for them. If they choose to remain anonymous, their details would never be disclosed. The press office would only receive winners’ details if they chose to go public.”
Do winners who choose publicity find that more people/companies target them asking for money?
Reports suggest that the Weirs recently fled to Spain with their children after begging letters flooded into their home. Their local post office confirmed that post was also piling up at the sorting office.
"The begging letters have already started coming," their postman told the Mail on Sunday.
"I delivered a pile of them today. But there are many more piled up at the sorting office. They are just addressed to ‘The Weirs’ and the manager is deciding whether to deliver them."
But for Mrs Jeffrey, the attention was on a much smaller scale. She explains: “We only got one letter, it was a congratulations card from my husband’s best friend with a list of things he wanted! I think it was a joke!”