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CNBC Declares Winner In Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge

Mary Sue Williams
Mary Sue Williams

CNBC announced today that Mary Sue Williams of St. Clairsville, Ohio is the winner of the CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge. Williams, 46, is a waitress at an Italian restaurant and says she and her husband Mark never invested in a stock or bond in their lives.

The CNBC competition employed hypothetical dollars in virtual accounts.

"This is great," said Williams a mother of two teenaged daughters, aged 19 and 13. "I'm very surprised but happy. My whole family is. It's Friday the 13th and what a way to celebrate."

When asked what made her enter the contest, Williams said her mother-in-law encouraged her to take a shot. Williams says she glad she took the advice. "We don't have a 401k or any savings. This will come in handy. I won't have to worry so much about the future," said Williams. Asked what she planned to do with her $1 million in winnings, Williams says that most of the money, to be paid in installments, will be used for her daughters' college education. Her eldest daughter Jenny is a student at Kent State University. Williams will receive an upfront payment of $100,000 and then $36,000 per year for 25 years.

Williams said her strategy was to study corporate earnings and invest in one stock at a time. Her biggest gainers were Crocs and WD-40 Co . Asked how she could be so successful in the contest when professionals have their own problems analyzing stocks, Williams said that besides focusing on a company's earnings, it was "luck and a gut instinct" that lead to her picks. As for actually investing her own money in stocks, Williams said she’s not planning on it anytime soon.

Mary Sue Williams has been a waitress at Undo's family restaurant in St. Clairsville for nine years. She says she will continue to work as will her husband who is a cook at the local Denny's. She says she noticed people leaving her smaller tips recently when they read about her in the local papers as a contestant. "They thought I had won. I'll have to see what they leave me now, now that I actually have won," said Williams. Williams is a native of California and at one time was a welder.

The CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge began on March 5th with some 375,000 people entering. Contestants each started out with $1 million CNBC "Bucks", to invest in stocks. The finals started on May 14th and consisted of weekly winners--those who had the highest percentage gain for a given week--as well as ten others who had the highest portfolio values. Each weekly winner will receive $10,000. The contest officially ended on May 25th.

The announcement of the winner was delayed because of an investigation into certain trading actions during the contest finals. According to CNBC VP of Communications Kevin Goldman, several individuals were disqualified in accordance with the contest rules.

Here is the CNBC statement on the contest winner:

CNBC today named Mary Sue Williams of St. Clairsville, Ohio as the winner of the CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge. Ms. Williams will receive the Grand Prize of $1 million. In addition, 10 weekly winners will each receive $10,000. Congratulations to Ms. Williams. And thank you to everyone who participated.

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