Taking home the jackpot

Here's how one lucky winner spent his new-found fortune.

By Ellen Florian Kratz, Fortune writer

(Fortune Magazine) -- Brad Duke, 34, a manager for five Gold's Gym franchises in Idaho, pocketed a lump sum of $85 million after winning a $220 million Powerball jackpot in 2005. He spent the first month of his new life assembling a team of financial advisors. His goal: to use his winnings to become a billionaire. Here's what Duke has done with his money so far.

  • $45 million: Safe, low-risk investments such as municipal bonds
  • brad_duke.03.jpg
    Brad Duke won a $220 million powerball jackpot in 2005.
  • $35 million: Aggressive investments like oil and gas and real estate
  • $1.3 million: A family foundation
  • $63,000: A trip to Tahiti with 17 friends
  • $125,000: Mortgage retired on his 1,400-square-foot house
  • $18,000: Student-loan repayment
  • $65,000: New bicycles, including a $12,000 BMC road bike
  • $14,500: A used black VW Jetta
  • $12,000: Annual gift to each family member

Did you often buy lottery tickets or was this a one-time thing?

I played the lottery often when I won. I had developed a little numbering system. Since I've won, there's been a lot of numbering systems for lotteries all over the Internet. Before that, there weren't any. I really thought I was going to win. I even wrote it down in my journal in 2002.

How did you develop your system?

How to choose my lottery numbers started through a trial and error process. I just started playing number games with myself about how to capture the most diverse numbers. Then I looked at the most recent Powerball numbers over the last six months and took the set of 15 numbers that were most commonly coming up. My Powerball numbers were going to be those 15. So I starting messing around with it, and my number games got a little more complex and a little bigger. I was starting to win smaller amounts like $150 and $500.

So many lottery winners have sad endings. Did you worry about that?

I've always handled responsibility well. If you accept that check, you accept an amazing responsibility to yourself and whomever you decide to include in it. I was quiet about winning for a month before I decided to come out. During that time, I was getting as much research as I could on existing lottery winners and what their stories were. Most of them lose all the money within a short amount of time. I'm looking at statistics where people in ten years have nothing. In ten years, I wanted to be worth about ten times as much. I think a lot of people who play the lottery are people who live on hope.

What was your first major purchase?

A trip to Tahiti for me and 17 of my friends. At the same time, I paid off my mortgage and student loans. [What was your biggest purchase?] The family foundation was the biggest allotment of money. $1.3 million.

What else did you do with your money?

I wanted to make the most of the opportunity that was given to me, so I put together a team with the intent to reach and maintain a $1 billion status over a particular period of time. I wanted to do it in 10 years, which I knew was aggressive. My team talked me into looking at 15 years. But it looks like we're on track for 12 years. When you do something like that, the more you become worth, the quicker your growth curve is. My total net worth right now is at an unofficial value of $128 to $130 million. We've done very well for the first year and a half.

What about a big new house or a fancy new car?

I guess I'm more worried about spending time on my investments and helping my consulting company along and doing fun things with my family and friends. I will have a new home and a great car at some point, but just not now. The great thing about the lottery was that I get to experience amazing things with people I care about. I started up a consulting company and am employing some people that helped me along the way with my employment. I took my family on a cruise.

You had to have treated yourself to something.

I bought bicycles. I'm probably own upward of 17 bikes. I also bought a 2002 Jetta. I gave my 2005 Jetta to my nephew. So it's the exact same car except for his is white and mine is black.

You had a newer car that you gave to your nephew and you bought an older car?

That's correct. I wanted a black VW Jetta with a black interior. Believe it or not, those are really hard to find. I went to the local dealership and had them track one down for me. They had to go to Texas to get it. It fit my bicycle rack really well.

What happened to your job at Gold's Gym?

I still teach a spinning class there twice a week. I took some time off after the whole thing because everybody had investment opportunities that were the greatest thing since sliced bread, and there were 100 of them every day. So I had to get out of there for a while, but when I went back, the people I'd been teaching for the last 8 years were still the same people, and I was still the same instructor.

Have you given money to members of your family?

One of the first things I did was give everyone in my family the maximum amount without tax consequence. I have all of my nieces' and nephews' college funds set up, and they're set. And there's no debt for anyone anymore. Everybody is happy.

Are you happier since you¹ve won the money?

Absolutely. When it comes down to it, I get to do the things professionally that I've always wanted to do. I get to invent a piece of equipment that I've always been thinking about doing. I get to give back to some people that have given to me over years.


Illinois lottery reported up for sale Top of page