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$116M Georgia Powerball winner claims prize

Oct 9, 2010, 8:14 am

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A 46-year-old advertising executive from Mableton, Georgia, has stepped forward with the $116 million Powerball ticket.

Gerald L. Render chose the cash option so he'll only be getting $63 million before taxes.

Render claimed the prize Friday afternoon, two weeks after buying the winning Quik Pik jackpot ticket at Heby's Shell, on Floyd Road in Mableton.

The advertising executive had been showing up for work as usual at the Marietta-based Upscale Magazine. It's a publication of Bronner Bros., known for hair products and an Atlanta trade show that attracts tens of thousands.

Render is vice president of advertising at the national publication, where he has worked at least 15 years, said his assistant, Erika Bennett.

"He's a great supervisor," she told local media. "Very business-oriented, goal-oriented, smart, professional and," she added with a laugh, "secretive!"

Render didn't tell her that he'd won. She only realized her boss was a millionaire after a local reporter e-mailed her a photo of the winner included in the Georgia Lottery's announcement Friday.

"Yup, that's him," she said.

Render is married, with two teenage children. He told Bennett that he'd quit his job if he ever won the lottery, which he played frequently.

When it was announced that the winning ticket was purchased on Sept. 18 in Mableton, where she knew he lived, she called him on his cell phone on Sept. 20, a Monday, and joked: Are you coming to work?

Yes, he told her, as if nothing had happened.

At that moment, he actually didn't realize that anything had happened, said his boss, Nathaniel Bronner Jr., the executive vice president of the company.

Bronner said Friday that he was among the few people that Render had confided in. Bronner said Bennett's phone call caused Render to pull out his ticket and have a look.

At first, Render thought he'd won the $13 million jackpot. Then, he thought he'd won tens of millions. Finally, he realized he'd won the big one, Bronner said. Render, who was at the corporate headquarters, rushed home, grabbed his wife and drove back.

He walked with her into Bronner's office, removed the executive's briefcase from his desk, and told him they needed to pray.

It was so brusk, that Bronner worried something terrible had happened. So they prayed.

"Then, he told me he'd just won $116 million in the Powerball," Bronner said, "and I started laughing"

Bronner said Render was comparatively calm. "I was more unnerved than he was."

Render turned up for work every day except Friday, acting normally.

In the meantime, he was establishing the limited liability corporation, Nichelle Leando LLC., that he would use to cash in the ticket.

On Thursday, he told his colleagues that he'd be gone for a long weekend, returning Tuesday.

Then, the news broke.

Bennett, his secretary, said he'll be missed if he doesn't come back.

"He's a good salesman," she said. "We need him here."

Bronner said he doubts Render will return to work Tuesday, but said he expects him to come back eventually, at least for a while.

"The problem is, when you have that kind of money, everybody looks at you differently. I imagine he's going to look at some kind of modification to his career," Bronner said. "I don't think he really knows right now."

He said Render is concerned about "crackpots" coming after him and is guarding his privacy. The phone numbers at Render's home have been disconnected, and he couldn't be reached for comment. But his lawyers released a statement from him Friday evening.

"We are thankful and humbled by this enormous blessing that has been entrusted to us," Render wrote, "and we understand that with it comes the responsibility of good stewardship."

Render mentioned he was grateful to have received "the Business Anointing" on New Year's Day.

Bronner, who also is a pastor at the Ark of Salvation in Grant Park, explained that it was a service where participants were told to expect "unusual supernatural increase."

"He does not feel this was a random event," Bronner said. "He feels this was a divine blessing, without question." He said Render is donating "millions" to the church.

Render is "a very solid, level-headed fellow," Bronner said, adding that he is an Atlanta native and a Morehouse graduate. "If I was to pick anybody to give $100 million to and expect him to manage it without going crazy, it's him."

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