The story of the so-called $30-million man, Raymond Sobeski, became a Canadian soap opera when, after waiting almost a year, he picked up his Super 7 lottery prize with only 12 days to go before his ticket expired. It's the largest lottery win in Canadian history.
What began as a water-cooler discussion about why a guy would wait so long and lose so much in interest quickly became a kind of reality show as the media chased down Sobeski's ex-wives, family and neighbours to find out about the mystery man.
Fittingly, Sobeski chose April Fools' Day to cash in, because the news came as quite a surprise to his three ex-wives who had no clue that Sobeski had been sitting on millions of dollars.
In fact, the 40-something southern Ontario man lost about $600,000 in interest leaving the winning ticket in a safety deposit box rather than in a bank gaining interest. Legal advisers guessed he could have made millions more if he'd invested the winnings in mutual funds. Sobeski said he didn't want to "do anything rash."
"Due to the magnitude of it, I just wanted to make sure that I did everything right and try to remain calm about it," he said the day he picked up his winnings. Sobeski said he was more interested in creating a legal and financial plan than in gathering interest. He'd hired a lawyer and an investment advisor.
While Sobeski, considered a private man, was tight-lipped about his plans, at least two of his three ex-wives – especially his most recent – didn't shy away from providing details.
Nynna Ionson, who married Sobeski in 1998, told reporters that on the night he picked up his winnings, her "husband," with whom she has never lived, took her to a hotel in Woodstock, made love to her, gave her a bottle of champagne (which the bank had given him as a prize), left her a rental SUV for a week and took off on a jet plane for places unknown – without telling her that he had become a multimillionaire.
With his winning ticket stored safely away, Sobeski had served Ionson with divorce papers in January 2003 and they were signed in February, although Ionson still claims to be in love with him. She's hired a lawyer to look after her interests.
Sobeski kept mum about his winnings – even to his own mother, waiting to tell his parents until the day he picked up his $30-million cheque. Then he hopped on a plane and no one knew where he went, including his family, who said he had been in touch but they weren't sure from where.
At the news conference to announce his win (which, legally, the lottery organization has to hold) Sobeski said he had no significant other and no plans. He said he would probably keep running his ginseng farm and "just keep working it till I'm broke."
Sobeski said he wants to spend the money on his elderly parents, two sisters and one brother, as well as giving to a couple of unnamed charities.
Grew up on a ginseng farm in Princeton, in the Woodstock area of southern Ontario.
Has a house in Princeton – population 500 – across from his parents' farm.
Admits to being "40-something" but reports say he's 47.
A computer repair technician who farms part-time.
Filed for bankruptcy in 1996 with $73,000 in debt (Globe and Mail).
With 10 minutes to go before the lottery wicket closed, Sobeski bought the ticket on April 11, 2003.
He purchased $10 worth of quick picks – randomly selected numbers.
He didn't check the numbers for two weeks then checked them "about 200 times" to make sure he had won.
High school sweetheart.
Marriage lasted only a few years.
Media haven't heard from her.
Also from Sobeski's high school.
Mother of his two children, Nikolas Lyle, 13, and Tekina Angela, 12.
Divorced from Sobeski, lives with her boyfriend.
Considering her "options," looking out for her children's welfare.
Married Sobeski in 1998.
Never lived with him.
Signed divorce papers in 2004.
Has four children from previous marriages.
Doesn't own a phone or a car.
Hired a lawyer to look after her interests.