Mark Lipsham learned to be rich the hard way.
The former truck driver won $NZ19 million ($17 million) on Lotto when he was shifting dirt north of Auckland in 2017.
By early 2020, Lipsham’s mental wellbeing had been overwhelmed by the responsibilities of wealth and all that came with it, the NZ Herald reports.
The $17m turned to $10.5m as those to whom he was close and people he hadn‘t heard from for years lined up to share his good fortune. And there was one, particularly, who nearly broke him.
Lipsham watched the money running out of his account and with it went the feeling he had control over his life.
These experiences sank him into the darkest of holes where he was thinking the unimaginable – wishing he had never won the money, and worse, that he didn‘t want to be around to spend it.
Today, dad-of-two Lipsham, born in Paeroa, is finally getting the hang of being rich. His fortune has grown so it now exceeds his original winnings. Happy and whole, he‘s engaged to be married and excited about making his first trip overseas for the wedding.
He‘s learned a lot along the way and now he’s ready to share the good, and bad, of becoming an overnight multi-millionaire.
‘Congratulations – you’re a winner’
Mark Lipsham was working as a truck driver on Warkworth‘s holiday highway in November 2017 when his life changed forever.
He had moved to the town a month earlier because he always followed the work. Home was a rented house not far from State Highway 1. “When I saw it, I thought ‘wow, this is a nice place. I wouldn’t mind owning it’.”
There was a lot of work left in the highway. It was work he liked. His father drove trucks and he drove trucks. Lipsham carted clay out and brought metal in.
Lotto had been on his mind. When he blew out candles on his recent 53rd birthday cake, he wished for a win.
“I started dreaming numbers and seeing numbers around. I went to bed and I started writing these numbers down that I was dreaming about. So I put them onto tickets and went and bought some Lotto tickets and, um, yeah. Something amazing happened.”
On November 28, 2017, Lipsham drove to work with a clutch of Lotto tickets in the glove box of his Honda Odyssey: “Black, with nice mags. I gave that away in the end.”
Lipsham‘s saying gidday to those he knows among the 200 or so people on site and chatter starts after a radio news story about an unclaimed Powerball prize of $17m. Workmates knew he’d taken time off to go into town and buy a ticket.
“Hey bro,” someone says, ”someone at Warkworth won the Powerball and it hasn‘t been claimed.” Lipsham puts on a total poker face and says: ”Yeah, that was me – I’ve got 12 months to claim it, plenty of time left.” He still cracks up over that because, really, he didn’t think for a second he had won.
Lipsham headed home that night, stopping at New World to pick up food for dinner and check his Lotto tickets on the way out.
“Next thing you know, the lady behind the counter – her eyes went like basketballs.”
Lipsham‘s watching the young woman pacing back and forth, then stopping to read instructions on the computer. She reads aloud: “This is a substantial amount of money. Please call HQ immediately.”
She picks up the phone and Lipsham says he‘s standing there thinking, ’have I won $1000?’, and then he’s thinking maybe $2000 or – getting crazy – what if it’s $10,000?
The woman at the counter hands the phone over and a man‘s voice says: “Congratulations. You are the winner of $19,166,667.66. How do you feel?”
Lipsham replies simply, “all right”, because it turns out getting a handle on the enormity of the win would take years. He jots down the phone number to organise claiming the money, tells the guy in line behind him ”I just won Powerball”, gets a handshake then leaves.
Five minutes later Lipsham pulls up at home where he lived with a cousin and baulks at going inside. “I couldn‘t get out of the car. I couldn’t even look inside … because they might see the way I’m looking and think something was wrong.”
He sits there for a bit, gets out and slips into the kitchen briefly then announces, “I‘m just going up the road”.
“I just wanted to go to the water. I wanted to go to the sea.” Lipsham drove to the coast, parked, walked across sand exposed by low tide and sat down in the water.
And that‘s where he stayed for the next few hours, mind blown. “I don’t know, when I was sitting in that water, if it was doing any good, really. I didn’t know what to expect or how to expect what to expect.
“How do I take this? How do I soak this in? How do I receive this? I suppose it was a bit of a numb feeling.
“Back in the day, $10 was a lot of money for me. Ten bucks, like, ‘hey bro, can I borrow 10 bucks? Oh no, man. I need this.’ You know?”
Lipsham sat there until night fell and he figured it was time to go home.
‘How do I deal with this?’
If you should ever be so lucky as to win a fortune, Mark Lipsham has some advice.
“Don‘t tell anyone. Don’t tell your partner. Don’t tell your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your best friend, your anyone. Don’t tell no one.”
He didn‘t go out of his way to tell people. It’s not his nature to boast. And some who learned of his good fortune took it as that – someone else’s good fortune.
But others who learned of it saw it as an opportunity.
The first person told was the guy in line at the supermarket, then his flatmate cousin when he got back from the beach. And then his boss the next morning when he turned up to work but found his concentration so shot he felt a danger driving his truck.
Lipsham‘s boss told him to go home, so the Lotto winner cleaned out his truck, knowing he wasn’t ever coming back.
By the time Friday came and the money was in the bank, word had spread. “Next minute, everyone started calling me. ‘Hey, giz a loan, giz this, giz that’. There’s people I didn’t even know from around New Zealand, people from overseas ringing.
“You‘re getting phone calls all the time. You’re getting messages all the time. That’s the stuff that was hard for me. That was hard for me because I didn’t know how to deal with it.”
And that was it for the next two years – a long line of hands out looking for a handout and Lipsham not knowing how to reconcile his good fortune with all those who wanted a piece of it.
“It got pretty bad. It threw me into a state of depression, stress, frustration. What to do? How do I deal with this? Am I supposed to give them what they ask for?
“How‘s that making me feel if I don’t give it? Do they think I’m an arsehole because I’m not giving it to them? It really shut me down.
“I couldn‘t go to people and tell them how I was feeling because I felt like I should be in control of what I’m dealing with and I didn’t want to be that person feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing with what I had.
“So I was trying to be that person who knew what he was doing and I was suppressing all those feelings.”
Two years later, Lipsham was in a dark place. He hadn‘t gone wild with the money – he was still in the Warkworth rental – but $19m shrank to $15m as he stretched his generosity to match the requests made.
Over that time, he gave money to people for what sounded like good reasons only to find they had spent it on something else – and come back to hit him up for more. He watched his bank balance drop and didn‘t know how to stop the slide.
“I‘ve always been a person who liked to give. I knew I had to pull it up somewhere, stop it and look at it. Just when and where and how? Shall I wait ’til it gets to a limit? Shall I stop it now? I was still feeling the obligation that I had to give.”
Compounding his sense of unease was the loss of structure. Lipsham had joined the army at 19 for nine years, drove trucks to a schedule and worked his whole life.
With a fortune in the bank, he didn‘t need to get up in the morning. Need became want and – once he had bought a few new cars – he didn’t know what he wanted.
“I found that very hard … and it led me to a place of problems – problems with myself, more than anything else, because I wasn‘t operating how I always operated.”
By October 2019, Lipsham was lonely and in torment. A neighbour to whom he confided was also struggling and had found someone who could help – a clairvoyant who apparently knew about money.
Lipsham, lost in himself, said: “I could use someone like that.” And that‘s how he met Kim Helmbright.
That first time, he says, she parked outside his rented home and, as she walked towards the front door, stopped and just didn‘t move for a few minutes.
When she continued, greeting Lipsham with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, he asked why she had stopped.
Her reply, he says, was to look at the photograph on the wall of his deceased mother and tell him: “I was just talking to your mum in the garden”.
‘Where’s my money’
It took seven months for Mark Lipsham to decide Helmbright, now 51, was not the answer to his problems. By the time that happened, his bank balance had dropped to $12m.
They met in October 2019 and parted ways in May 2020. In that time, Helmbright took on his financial and legal affairs while providing health and life counselling. Thousands of text messages reviewed by the Herald show Lipsham came to rely on Helmbright for almost everything.
In those messages, Helmbright showered praise over Lipsham‘s discovery of exercise and gym work while offering advice on stress. One message offered breathing advice, adding: “And quietly say to yourself … I am Mark and I’m okay. I am here and now. The more I am here the better it gets. I am safe. I am loved. I am needed.”
His text messages are loaded with gratitude. “I don‘t smile much,” he wrote to her. ”I have noticed the sensations lately when I have been smiling and it’s different … a good different.”
Along the way, Lipsham says, Helmbright advised distance from some family and friends. He recalls “the word hermit was used”. Text messages show Helmbright offered technical advice about not opening emails and swapping phones which, Lipsham says, served to isolate him from others.
It‘s clear from the messages Helmbright’s influence sometimes pushed Lipsham in directions he wanted to go. He steered clear of alcohol, with her encouragement, and moved on from the Warkworth rental in anticipation of becoming a homeowner.
But there were times when Lipsham made choices with which she disagreed. “She made me cry a few times. She was actually telling me off and made me cry.”
Lipsham says she told him: “I‘m very expensive and I like to be paid when I ask for it.” And so he did, transferring $70,000 over the course of their contact.
But it was a payment of $2.8m on December 2, 2019, that wound up in the High Court at Whangarei. Helmbright claimed it was payment for services. Lipsham said he sent her the money to buy houses she was choosing on his behalf.
The money was transferred just before Lipsham flew from Kerikeri to Nelson – his first time flying, first time in the South Island – where one of his two daughters lives with her children.
It was a trip meant to last a fortnight but it stretched to months as, Lipsham says, he was told there were delays buying property.
Lipsham got back to Auckland on one of the last flights before the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 and moved into a motel. As lockdown passed, Lipsham‘s frustration grew.
In May, he texted her: “I don‘t know what is happening with the house, with my money. I used to get 32k-38k a month. Now I am only getting approx. 9k a month from ASB. I need to hear answers.”
Helmbright, who once texted him to wake up at 4am and sign a document, refused to engage at 9.47pm. “Six weeks of no contact,” she texted, ”and you message me out of the blue. I am not answering your call as I am not going to have you talking to me in that manner.”
It wasn‘t quite the end but it took only a week before Lipsham was texting to no reply: “Are you going to call Kim? When are you going to call? This is not good.”
And that would have been it, if coincidence hadn‘t introduced Lipsham to a man with – to borrow from the movie Taken – a “very particular set of skills”.
‘I got conned’
Mark Lipsham says: “I like anything with a steering wheel and side mirrors.”
That‘s how he came to meet Matt Blomfield, who also likes a showpiece on wheels. They use the same mechanics and passed time chatting about cars while waiting for work to be done.
Blomfield is a former pizza franchisee who fought an infamous decade-long defamation fight, often representing himself. In that time, he‘s turned those hard-won skills into a legal support business that finds solutions to people’s problems.
At the point they met, Lipsham‘s mental wellbeing was again on the slide. Helmbright had gone from being his touchstone for balance to a fresh source of anxiety.
“I thought it was good help,” Lipsham says of their contact. ”In the end, it really wasn‘t help at all. I actually got conned and out of quite a lot of money.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m just gonna let it go’. I’ve been through this stressful time. I don’t want to go through any more of it. I’m just going to go with what I’ve got. And what I had left was about $12 million.”
On the day they met, Blomfield‘s car was finished first and he left. Those working on Lipsham’s car suggested Blomfield as the answer to his problems. “He’s like a pit bull,” Lipsham was told. ”He’ll go in there and he’ll come back with it.”
When Blomfield and Lipsham met again they talked about Helmbright and the $2.8m. As trust developed, they talked about getting it back and how Lipsham could look after what was left.
Blomfield‘s search for Lipsham’s money revealed Helmbright had bought properties in Northland in early 2020. That July, he slapped legal freezing orders on both properties, alleging Helmbright had bought the land with money “fraudulently” obtained.
Two years later, at the High Court in Whangarei, lawyers for Lipsham asked Associate Judge Dani Gardiner to order Helmbright to produce evidence to support her claim the $2.8m was paid for the services provided to Lipsham.
Evidence of the contract between the pair, Helmbright said, was a “freelancing agreement” she claimed was cobbled together from documents online and signed by Lipsham with the date of October 4, 2019. Lipsham told the court he had signed the agreement in December 2019, when the $2.8m was transferred so Helmbright could buy him a house or houses.
That was when detective work by Blomfield‘s staff showed the agreement to be an almost perfect match for a “freelancing agreement” sold by a United States-based legal document company. When such an agreement was purchased, it left an electronic footprint – an emailed receipt and a credit card transaction – which would show the date the contract was created.
Associate Judge Gardiner found Helmbright “must have … downloaded and paid” for the agreement and ordered Helmbright produce evidence of payment and purchase.
Lipsham won‘t talk about how matters ended, saying a settlement agreement doesn’t allow him to do so. Helmbright denies the allegation of fraud in the caveat document but has yet to respond to other questions from the Herald.
However, documents filed with Land Information NZ show in the weeks after the judgment both Northland properties – one in Okaihau and one in Waipapa – were transferred from Helmbright to interests controlled by Lipsham.
Those two houses join a property portfolio that didn‘t exist when Lipsham and Blomfield met two years ago. It’s the result of Blomfield asking Lipsham what he wanted to do with the money he had left.
Lipsham‘s response – what he always wanted, really – was to make sure the heavy weight of responsibility that came with his extraordinary good luck was recognised with good management. Blomfield’s legal services company morphed to manage Lipsham’s fortune, which has doubled since that chance meeting two years ago.
Lipsham‘s now in a good place, preparing to move into the understated but stylish Riverhead house being built as his new home. His first overseas trip and upcoming marriage to a woman he met a couple of years ago lie ahead. He’s asked to keep her part of his life private.
Standing where his new home‘s deck will be, looking across the Upper Waitemata Harbour, Lipsham can point to three houses he owns across the water. And there’s other investment properties.
He laughs: “If there‘s any money disappearing, it’s me making it disappear!”
Above the new house is an $880,000 squat red Lamborghini in the garage of the cottage where the couple are currently living. The car is worth as much as the government valuation on Lipsham‘s old Warkworth house, which Blomfield organised for him to buy at auction. Lipsham always liked that place.
And there is structure back in his life. “I had to rebuild the structure in me. I had to put it back and it took a long time to get that structure back. And I‘m glad I got it back.”
Structure came through transparency. Blomfield – or his staff – email regular updates on all aspects of managing a fortune. It gives Lipsham a reason to get up in the morning – a need to manage his future, rather than be victim to it.
“Everyone says happiness comes from within,” says Lipsham. ”Since I was young, I‘ve always looked for happiness because I didn’t know how to find happiness. And I was looking for it out there, over there, in that person or that person. I was trying to find happiness. I didn’t know how to look inside.
“This fortune has created a space for me and this space is quite a big space. I‘m not all cramped up. Instead, the space that I’m in now … I can stand in one spot and I can look out and I can see what I feel.
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“It‘s a feeling of freedom. And in that space, there’s a lot of growth in there. It’s right there and it’s happening … I can see things happening in front of me.”
This article originally appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission
Pritpal Chahal is Alberta's newest millionaire after winning the July 30 draw with a jackpot of $17,183,706.90.
Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr.
|Known for||Winning the Powerball in December 2002|
- Be quiet about winning. ...
- Make copies of the ticket, secure it. ...
- Try to stay anonymous. ...
- Decide if you want to set up a trust. ...
- Sign your ticket. ...
- Annuity or lump sum. ...
- Be prepared for taxes. ...
- Plan for the future.
Unlike many winners, Andrew "Jack" Whittaker was already wealthy when he won the largest jackpot ever awarded to a single Powerball winner. He became a jackpot winner on Christmas morning in 2002. He chose a lump sum payment instead of an annuity, so he took home $113-some million from his $314.9 lottery ticket.