How Richard Hatch From Survivor Really Spent His Prize Money

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From his Machiavellian scheming to his penchant for walking around naked, Richard Hatch has to be one of the most memorable — and divisive — characters from the more than 40 seasons of "Survivor."

The former corporate trainer, car salesman, and bartender (per CBS) became a household name in 2000 when he competed on "Survivor: Borneo," the very first season of what would become a reality juggernaut. An estimated 51.7 million people (per Chicago Tribune) watched the season finale in which Hatch took home the $1 million grand prize.

From there, Hatch seems to have built a whole career out of appearing on reality competitions and game shows, including "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in 2000, "Weakest Link" in 2001, "Survivor: All-Stars" in 2004, "Battle of the Network Reality Stars" in 2005, "The Apprentice" in 2011, and "The Biggest Loser: Temptation Nation" in 2016.

With all of those credits to his name, along with a few movie roles and countless talk-show appearances, Hatch must be rolling in the dough, right? Wrong.

What did Richard Hatch do after Survivor?

After winning "Survivor," Richard Hatch published a book in 2000 that was part memoir, part self-help tome, "101 Survival Secrets: How to Make $1,000,000, Lose 100 Pounds, and Just Plain Live."

In it, the 6'4" reality star wrote, "I will use the money for pretty much the same kinds of things that you would have used it for if you had won a million dollars. I'm going to pay off some bills. I'm going to fix up my house, which is what I was doing before I left for the island (although now I can fix it up a little faster than I could before). I'm going to pay off some of my mortgage. Some of the money will go to Uncle Sam."

Indeed, good old Uncle Sam taxes prize winnings the same as regular income, and most states take an additional income-tax bite (per H&R Block). This means, according to AOL, that whoever is deemed the Sole Survivor can expect to pay about $420,000 in taxes and keep just $580,000.

His legal troubles mounted up

"Hire a brilliant accountant so you don't lose every penny you have to Uncle Sam," Richard Hatch advised in "101 Survival Secrets," adding, "You've earned it and you want to protect it. Nothing wrong with that." Unfortunately, the Rhode Island native took his own advice a little too far.

In 2006, Hatch went on trial for neglecting to report his "Survivor" prize money, along with other 2000 and 2001 earnings, to the IRS — a total of over $1.4 million (per U.S. Department of Justice). The jury found Hatch guilty of tax evasion. 

The judge sentenced him to 51 months in prison and ordered him to pay $474,971 (plus interest and penalties) to the IRS. "Our nation's federal tax system is not a reality show to be outwitted, it is a reality, period," said Eileen J. O'Connor, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Tax Division.

But Hatch argues to this day that he was not treated fairly by CBS or the legal system.

Richard Hatch went to prison more than once

During his 2006 trial, Richard Hatch claimed he had discovered that some of his fellow contestants on "Survivor" were being snuck food and that the CBS producers promised to pay the taxes on his winnings in exchange for his silence (per The New York Times). He said he tried phoning and emailing CBS to ask about his taxes.

"All I wanted to do was find out whether or not the taxes due on the million dollars or some portion of them had been paid," he said. "I just didn't want to pay them if they had already been paid." The judge didn't allow the jury to hear Hatch's explanation.

Hatch, who is openly gay, also asserted that homophobia may have played a part in the outcome of his trial. In an interview on "The Joy Behar Show," he said, "We asked to ask the jurors about their feelings toward homosexuals and the judge denied it."

In 2009, Hatch finished serving his sentence. But, in 2011, he was ordered back to prison for nine months because he had failed to refile his 2000 and 2001 taxes and pay the IRS an estimated $2 million (per CBS News).

Where did all the prize money go?

In "101 Survival Secrets," Richard Hatch wrote, "I plan to use some of my new-found celebrity and resources to restart the Horizon Bound program or something similar to it." The outdoor program had helped him as a troubled teen in the 1970s. 

But, according to prosecutors, Hatch misappropriated funds that were intended for the program, instead using the money to pay for personal expenses, such as dry cleaning and home improvements (per Today). At trial, the prosecutor stated that Hatch had also spent nearly $700,000 on home improvements and landscaping (per The New York Times).

In addition, the reality TV star bought several pieces of property in rural Canada in 2002, several of which had to be sold off over the years to cover municipal back taxes as low as a few thousand dollars (per SaltWire). Eleven of his properties in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, were put up for auction in 2021, and many of them were valued at just $500 each (per SaltWire).

Plus, it's safe to assume that he has spent a hefty sum on lawyers' fees over the past two decades.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Hatch's fortune is estimated at $200,000, as of this writing — a tiny amount compared to the net worth of "Survivor" host Jeff Probst or the richest "Survivor" contestants.

Richard Hatch's future with the Survivor franchise

Richard Hatch last appeared on the show that made him famous in 2004, for "Survivor: All-Stars." He was invited to appear on "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" in 2010, but house arrest made that impossible (per Entertainment Weekly).

The man widely known as the "fat naked guy" did not take part in 2020's "Survivor: Winners at War," the show's 40th season, which brought back 20 former champs to compete for a $2 million prize. Host Jeff Probst explained to Us Weekly that Hatch was no longer a good representative of the show.

Hatch was unhappy about being excluded, claiming that his tendency to walk around naked on the show was being unfairly characterized. "They benefited from my boldness over the years, and now they're too worried about taking the conversation where it should go, distinguishing between nudity and sexual harassment," he said in a video on his YouTube channel.

"It's sad, it's silly, and I think the fans and the show lose," he said. "That's my thought. I think season 40 would have been better with me there than without."