Rick Knudsen used to sit on the porch of his rural four-bedroom house in Calimesa and gaze up at Little San Gorgonio, a peak on Yucaipa Ridge in Southern California. An enormous house was being constructed on the side of the mountain face. Mr. Knudsen would dream of what it would be like to live there, overlooking the giant redwoods.
A year later he bought the house.
In 2014, Mr Knudsen won $180 million in the California Mega Millions lottery. “‘Hey brother, I’m outta here’,” he recalled telling his boss when he retired from his job as a manager of a roofing products company.
Mr. Knudsen paid $5.5 million for the not-yet-completed home on about 50 acres, which already boasted a 17-seat movie theater and garage fit for a car collector. He spent millions more on an adjacent buffalo ranch on 155 acres, then still more on another neighboring 640-acre swath of land and a steakhouse and saloon in the area. He said he spent about $11.5 million in all. The next year he bought a home for each of his five children.
A Lotto Winner’s Multi-Million Dollar Estate
After winning $180 million in 2014, Rick Knudsen bought this 16,000-square-foot mountain home with a car-collector’s garage and a movie theater.
Craig Strong of Pacific Union International, Mr. Knudsen’s real-estate agent, said his client’s purchases were driven by feeling, rather than investment returns. “I’ve represented people who’ve inherited a fortune, made a fortune but never won a fortune,” Mr. Strong said. “It became more of an emotional purchase for him, because he was able to fulfill his own dreams.”
“It was just bam, bam bam. Within three months I owned it all,” laughed Mr. Knudsen, 57. Now, he is listing his spread for $26 million.
The property’s main house spans about 16,000 square feet of living space with five bedrooms. Including the buffalo ranch, it sits on 845 acres that ascend from 5,000 to 9,000 feet in elevation. It has an elevator, a gym, a wine cellar, a one-bedroom guest apartment and a wraparound deck. On the grounds, there are two barns, a caretaker’s home, a stocked fishing pond and a 5½-mile hiking and driving trail.
The fully-operational ranch comes with 45 buffalo, which are grass- and apple-fed and served at the steakhouse. Mr. Knudsen said he has spotted black bear, deer and mountain lions on the property. He estimated that he spends roughly $1,000 a month feeding the wildlife, including 150 pounds of apples and carrots a month.
The offering is unique in that it includes the house, the saloon, which is managed by Mr. Knudsen’s son, and the buffalo ranch, Mr. Strong said. Essentially, Mr. Knudsen is looking for someone to take over his house as well as the small collection of enterprises he purchased following his lottery win.
Originally from Hawaii, Mr. Knudsen grew up in a modest home in Oceanside, Calif. His father was a veteran who served in South Korea and Vietnam, and his mother did clerical work. Mr. Knudsen started working in the roofing business when he was 19, and worked his way through the ranks to become general manager of the company he worked for. He moved to the San Bernardino area around 1982.
Mr. Knudsen said he’s always been a lucky guy, and has a thing for numbers, having won $20,000 in blackjack a few years back. “You can say I’m a crackpot, but I’m not,” he quipped. For the week leading up to the win, he said that every time he went into a store, his cash total was an even number, with no change at all. “When these things happen numerically, I think my luck is good,” he said. So he bought a lottery ticket.
He said he bought that winning lottery ticket in 2014, at a 7-Eleven on a trip back from the gym. He found out he won while on vacation in nearby Palm Springs the following day, when his sister called to say the winner came from the local store. “I was cool. I didn’t freak out,” he said. He did later rent a party bus to cart his family and friends around local bars, though.
While many lottery winners have suffered financial problems in the wake of their wins, Mr. Knudsen said he is in no financial difficulty: “I’m worth more now than I was when I won it,” he said. “My old boss hooked me up with his financial adviser, and I’ve done nothing but make millions.” Mr. Knudsen added that he’s happier as a result of the win. “I really am,” he said. “I do run into some haters, some old clients of mine and stuff, but I’m cool.”
He said he never considered leaving the areas of Calimesa and Oak Glen, which are about an hour from Palm Springs and which have been his home for several decades. He doesn’t have other homes around the country, preferring to stay in a Marriott when he’s traveling.
Mr. Knudsen said he has been antsy since he completed the main home six months ago, and is ready to move on to another challenge—building another mountain home at a lower elevation nearby. One of his five children also has some health issues that are exacerbated by the altitude. “I’m actually a little bit bored because I’m done here,” he said.
Mr. Knudsen said he does have some advice for the winner of the latest Mega Millions jackpot of $1.537 billion: “Call me.”
Write to Katherine Clarke at email@example.com
Appeared in the October 26, 2018, print edition as ‘The Life of a Lotto Winner.’