SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley's latest who-won-it mystery came to a close on April Fool's Day, when a man strolled into the Sacramento lottery headquarters bearing the winning Powerball ticket and wearing a T-shirt featuring Yoda from "Star Wars" with the words: "Luck of the Jedi I have."
Lottery officials were quick to say that nearly six weeks after the Feb. 19 drawing, this was no joke: B. Raymond Buxton is the sole winner of the $425.3 million jackpot. Despite his levity in picking a day and T-shirt for emergence, he hunkered down after learning of the win, recruiting an attorney and a public relations powerhouse to help him navigate the world of a newly minted millionaire.
" 'Unbelievable!' is all I could muster," Buxton said in a statement from Singer Associates, a Bay Area public relations firm that has represented clients such as Gavin Newsom and Children's Hospital Oakland. "Once the initial shock passed I couldn't sleep for days."
While his name is out there, Buxton declined media interviews and cleverly covered his face with an enormous novelty check for the lottery photo. A San Francisco law firm is helping him handle bank accounts and taxes and establish a charity.
"It couldn't happen to a nicer guy," Sam Singer said. "He wants to be a winner who affects lives in a positive way."
The ticket was sold at a Chevron station off Dixon Landing Road in Milpitas. Buxton, a self-described lottery regular, was at the Subway sandwich counter inside the station, already with a ticket in hand, when he decided that the payoff potential was so huge that this time he'd buy a second ticket. That's the one that won — a $2 ticket that will net a lump sum payoff of $242.2 million before federal taxes. It's the largest jackpot ever won in California, said lottery officials.
"It was a fail-safe," Singer said. "And he became the luckiest guy in the world."
Singer said Buxton is a retired "well-educated professional" in his late 50s, with Bay Area ties and that the gas station is within the footprint of his daily travels. Records show that he's lived in East Contra Costa County.
Buxton plans to do some traveling but also wants to give back to the community through a charity focused on pediatric health, child hunger and education.
It was the Bay Area's second big lottery win in as many months: A delivery driver named Steve Tran bought a winning Mega Millions ticket from an East San Jose gift shop sometime before a Dec. 17 drawing. He did not come forward until a few days after New Year's, when he found the winning ticket while looking through a drawer.
Tran gave a brief statement to lottery officials, saying he had immediately called his boss to let him know he wasn't coming in anymore, then dropped off the map. He took a $173.8 million pretax cash payout out of the maximum $324 million prize.
Immediately after realizing he won, Buxton — who Singer said comes from a large family — kept it to himself, and turned to the California Lottery's Web page advising winners to line up legal and financial representation.
"Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary. It's amazing how a little slip of paper can change your life. I'm going to enjoy my new job setting up a charitable foundation focused on the areas of pediatric health, child hunger and education," he said.
He added that he plans to "spend time with my family and friends, start a charity and consult with professionals on how to pragmatically utilize this windfall," with a perhaps more ambitious plan of "trying to find a way to live a normal and discreet life."
"You get a check for $200 million-plus, that's automatically going to be a life-changer," said California Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso. "It's great in theory and we love that the guy took time to investigate options and think it's great he's going to give money back."
Traverso added, however that keeping a low profile might prove to be an admirable but difficult goal.
"We wish him all the luck in the world," he said.
The Feb. 19 jackpot was the largest jackpot in California history, according to lottery officials, and the sixth-largest ever won in the United States.
The odds of matching all six Powerball numbers are 1 in about 175 million, according to statistics from the Multi-State Lottery Association in Iowa.
Powerball is played in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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