NEW YORK — The Tennessee lottery confirmed Friday that a family from Munford, Tennessee, is one of the three winners of the $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot.
John and Lisa Robinson will have to split the jackpot three ways with other winners from Florida and California. But that’s still more than $500 million to each party.
The Robinsons opted to take the lump sum. After taxes, they’ll receive $187.2 million.
The Robinsons appeared Friday morning on the “Today” show along with their daughter, Tiffany, their lawyer, Joe Townsend, and his daughter, Ilene.
NBC was somewhat skeptical of the Robinson’s claim because they had yet to report their win to the Tennessee lottery commission.
In a bizarre scene, host Savannah Guthrie led into the segment saying that the “Today” show could not verify that they had won the Powerball, since the family had not yet contacted state lottery officials.
The caption on screen even put “winning ticket” in quotes.
Any doubts were erased Friday afternoon when the Tennessee lottery tweeted out confirmation that the Robinsons had come to their headquarters to claim the prize.
Why reach out to the “Today” show and go public before cashing in the ticket?
“Well, actually, it was his idea,” John Robinson said, pointing to his lawyer.
Lawyer Joe Townsend explained: “I think the American public wants to hear from them, and even though they want to be private after this is over, they want to let the American public know they’re the winners.”
Townsend wanted the Robinsons to call a national media outlet before cashing in their ticket to ensure that they could control their own story.
Ilene Townsend, the lawyer’s daughter, was able to contact the “Today” show’s producers.
“They were rightly a little suspicious,” Townsend said. “But we talked and made it happen.”
The couple told the “Today” show that they watched the number drawing live on Wednesday night, and checked the numbers multiple times to ensure that they had won. Even then, they still weren’t sure, Robinson explained.
“I said, ‘well, I’ll believe it when the news comes on in the morning and they say there’s a winner been in Munford,’ ” he said.
Robinson said he was scared after he learned that he won. He said he knew he wanted to get a lawyer and an accountant.
When co-host Carson Daily asked whether he was nervous about carrying a ticket worth more than $100 million in his front pocket, Robinson admitted that, “Now I’m nervous because everybody knows.”
During the “Today” show segment, the family said they don’t plan to move, and revealed they had even gone to work on Thursday.
At the end of the segment, weatherman Al Roker shouted to the Robinsons: “Mom! Dad!”
One reason there was skepticism of the family’s claim: The Robinsons said that they were headed directly to the lottery commission after appearing on the Today Show.
But a Powerball spokeswoman confirmed that the winning tickets must be claimed in the states in which they were purchased. So the Robinsons would have to get right back on a plane to Tennessee to claim their prize.
The other two winning tickets were sold in Florida and California.
Florida has closed its offices Friday and won’t be able to confirm any winners until Tuesday because they will be closed Monday for Martin Luther King Day. The California winner has until 5 pm PT Friday to claim the prize before the long weekend.