The Mega Millions lottery winner who is selling his $26 million southern California compound is ready to downsize.
“I will not be looking to buy such an extravagant home this time around,” Rick Knudsen tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I am looking to purchase land and build a home and ranch half the size of what I have now. I will still be looking for a great view and to add more ranch animals—maybe a few horses and buffalo.”
After winning the $180 million jackpot in August 2014, Rick Knudsen purchased 845 acres of land on a mountain in Oak Glen, California. He said at the time that he and his family had lived in their home for 23 years, and though they promised to stay humble after winning, they couldn’t wait to purchase a new home.
“Before winning the lottery, I had actually been looking for a home in the Oak Glen area,” he says. “Soon after winning, I went on a pre-planned fishing trip to Alaska with my former boss. By the time I returned to California, he had convinced me to buy a much larger property, so, fortunately, the Eagle Crest Estate was for sale. We purchased it in a down market and it has been an incredible blessing and privilege to live here.”
The estate was the most elevated mountain compound in Southern California, and Knudsen says the seclusion and privacy the property offered made his purchase an easy choice.
“I looked up at this mountain from my previous home in Calimesa and I had always wondered what it was like up here,” he says.
But now, Knudsen is leaving the place behind so he can move to a lower elevation with his son Ricky, 36, who was born with a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. So far, Ricky has had three open heart and two closed heart surgeries along with two valve replacements.
“We had an elevator installed to help him,” Knudsen says. “However, he is quite stubborn and chooses to walk up and down the stairs grumbling all the way ‘I can do it,’ only using the elevator when absolutely necessary.”
Ricky, who is now on his third ICD defibrillator, has now lived twice the age the doctors expected him to, Knudsen says. But after speaking with his son’s cardiologist this year, Knudsen says its recommended for Ricky to move to a lower elevation.
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“He feels it is time to move to a single story home probably no higher than 4,000 feet,” Knudsen says. “The difference of 2,000 feet will make a big difference in pressure and it should be an improvement for him.”
Ricky is admittedly sad to leave his life at Eagle Creek.
“My son enjoys his life up here, he has great freedom,” Knudsen says. “He has a Mule—no, not a donkey, a Kawasaki UTV Mule—that, believe it or not, he has put over 30,000 miles on from just driving all over the property.”
But Knudsen says he’s ready to move on, and is already planning a new 100-acre development with a ranch where Ricky will be able to enjoy himself. Knudsen himself though admits that he will miss quite a few things about the property, especially all of the wildlife and the ability to experience all four seasons.
“I wouldn’t I’m say heartbroken, but it has been an amazing experience and I have enjoyed finishing the estate to make it what it is today,” he says. “I feel that I have done everything here that needs to be done and it will be nice to start another project.”
However, Knudsen is incredibly grateful that the lottery was able to give him this experience.
“Where do I begin?” he says. “I still have to pinch myself to believe that it really happened. The odds that I would have the winning ticket are one in 250 million. It has given my family an opportunity to all live in nice homes in the same community instead of being spread out. I am still trying to instill in all of them that they need to continue to work hard and be financially responsible for their own lives. Ricky was given a new sense of freedom and independence. He has also been able to help around the ranch, which has built up his self-worth.”
“Most of all it has given me the ability to invest in long-term investments for my family and to provide financial freedom for the future,” he adds. “I definitely see the world in a new and incredible way. Dreams really do come true.”