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Investment banker wins $145,000 on Wheel of Fortune and donates it to charity

A top executive at a Los Angeles investment firm says he will donate his entire $145,000 winnings from his appearance on Wheel of Fortune to charity.

Scott Kolbrenner, 50, took home a $100,000 grand prize in addition to the $45,000 he won during Thursday’s airing of the popular game show taped in Culver City, California.

The episode originally taped on November 5, and Kolbrenner said he and his wife were the only ones who knew of his grand prize winnings as well as his plans to give the money away to charity. 

During an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday, Kolbrenner said that he decided to donate all of his winnings in light of the economic hardships faced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘It’s been a dark time and when I went on the show I was doing it for the fun of it,’ Kolbrenner told GMA.

‘As I went on [the show], I said to my wife, “If I do okay here, anything that I get, let’s give it charity. We’re very fortunate. Let’s see if we can support some others who aren’t as fortunate as we are”.’

Scott Kolbrenner, 50, took home a $100,000 grand prize in addition to the $45,000 he won during Thursday’s airing of Wheel of Fortune, the popular game show in Culver City, California

Kolbrenner is seen above reacting to his grand prize winnings. The episode, which was taped on November 5, aired on Thursday

Kolbrenner is seen above reacting to his grand prize winnings. The episode, which was taped on November 5, aired on Thursday

During an appearance on Friday's Good Morning America, Kolbrenner said:u00A0u2018As I went on [the show], I said to my wife, u201CIf I do okay here, anything that I get, letu2019s give it charity. Weu2019re very fortunate. Letu2019s see if we can support some others who arenu2019t as fortunate as we areu201D.u2019

During an appearance on Friday’s Good Morning America, Kolbrenner said: ‘As I went on [the show], I said to my wife, “If I do okay here, anything that I get, let’s give it charity. We’re very fortunate. Let’s see if we can support some others who aren’t as fortunate as we are”.’

Kolbrenner said that, save for his wife, he did not tell his friends and family, including his two children, what had taken place after taping concluded on Thursday afternoon.

‘My kids didn’t know, my parents, friends, family didn’t know so it was complete and utter shock for everyone in our lives and they were elated about it.’

Kolbrenner, a managing director at the investment firm Houlihan Lokey, said that one of the charities that would receive part of his winnings is the Uplift Family Services based in the heart of Hollywood.

The organization, where Kolbrenner has served on the board for two decades, provides behavioral health services to needy families.

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak reveals during Thursday's episode that Kolbrenner won an additional $100,000 grand prize

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak reveals during Thursday’s episode that Kolbrenner won an additional $100,000 grand prize

‘I’ve been involved with them for 20 years and they do such great work,’ Kolbrenner told GMA.

‘People think of Hollywood as glitz and glamour, but there’s plenty of people you don’t see in the bright lights every day.

‘What I was hoping to do is shine a light on them.’

The other organization that Kolbrenner plans to aid is the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

‘Obviously, their needs have expanded greatly during this time,’ Kolbrenner said.

‘We’ve just been thrilled to be able to help these two organizations.’ 

Though he lives in Los Angeles, Kolbrenner is a native of Hewlett, a small hamlet on the south shore of Long Island.

He is married to his wife, Caryn, an elementary school nurse, with whom he has two children – teenage son Owen and daughter Abby, 20.

Kolbrenner said he went to audition for Wheel of Fortune after he was discouraged by the grim news of the pandemic.

u2018Itu2019s been a dark time and when I went on the show I was doing it for the fun of it,u2019 Kolbrenner said. Confetti is seen above as Kolbrenner solves the final puzzle during Thursday's episode

‘It’s been a dark time and when I went on the show I was doing it for the fun of it,’ Kolbrenner said. Confetti is seen above as Kolbrenner solves the final puzzle during Thursday’s episode

‘What’s more comfort-food than turning on Wheel of Fortune and seeing Pat [Sajak] and Vanna [White], whom I’d grown up watching,’ he told Newsday.

‘As we got into the summer, I was watching it every night and I would yell out the answers like everybody does when they watch.’

After Caryn encouraged him to audition, Kolbrenner said that he was called back.

‘I sent in a quick video and a one-page application. I got a call back right away for a Zoom interview (which included a mock show with other potential contestants) which was really fun to do,’ he says.

‘I thought I had blown it because I didn’t win a lot of the puzzles, but then a couple of days later I got an email that said, “Your taping day is November 5th. We look forward to seeing you.”

‘I couldn’t believe it!’

Kolbrenner graduated from George W. Hewlett High School in 1988. He then went on to earn his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado Boulder before continuing on to Harvard Law School.   


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