Society

Charitable Millionaire Gives Away All His Money, Loses His Wife

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A multi-millionaire philanthropist has lost his wife, and his fortune.

Brian Burnie devoted his life to helping cancer patients after his wife battled, and won, her fight with breast cancer.

The 70-year-old declared, “I’ve no interest in bricks and mortar. I’ve no interest in possessions,” after selling their $27 million home, auctioning their belongings, and putting all the proceeds into his own cancer charity in 2009.

Burnie said all he needed was his family.

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His wife Shirley did not agree, and four years after Burnie began his charitable pursuit, she ended their 30-year marriage.

“I didn’t want to give everything away.” Shirley said. “We needed a home and an income and we have three children. I wanted security for us and our family.”

“It took over his life, becoming more important than anything else to him,” Shirley added. “I said to him often that we had other things to consider, but his top three priorities were the charity, the charity and the charity.”

Burnie’s non-profit charity, Daft As A Brush, had him working 12 hours a day and he barely saw his family.

That was not the final straw in their marriage, though—it was a house.

Shirley learned Burnie purchased a home from a gossip at the local hairdresser and assumed it was where he planned to move after leaving their marriage.

“I learned that he had bought a new home in Gosforth without telling me,” said Shirley. “I confronted him and he admitted it was true. He’d owned it for three months and said nothing. I felt he’d made his ­preparations for the end of the marriage and waited for me to find out.”

“There had to be a reason why he kept that quiet, I believed, and I assumed it must have been because he had decided the marriage was over and he was leaving,” Shirley continued.

“I didn’t intend to have to beat cancer and then spend the rest of my life living in a house like this and doing everything for everyone else,” Shirley said. “I’m sick of bloody charity and the hard work — we all are.”

“I felt he had put me in a position where we had to end the marriage,” Shirley said.

Their divorce was finalized in 2012.

Burnie denies wanting to end the marriage or that he bought the home to personally live in. He says it was for the charity.

“I never intended to live in it, I bought it for the charity but it wasn’t right and I had to get different premises,” Burnie told the The Mirror. “I wish I’d never bought it because I could have put the money to better use.”

Burnie now lives in a flat above the Daft As A Brush headquarters and survives off his pension—of which all goes to the charity when he dies, not to his three children.

“Your children have to make their own way, “ Burnie said.

“We live in a selfish, greedy society. If we can introduce our children to charitable acts at a young age, there is hope that the flame will take in them and they’ll see how much you get from helping others,” Burnie added.

The divorce did not come as a surprise to those close to the Burnie’s.

“Brian has what he wanted,” Shirley said. “We keep hearing he’s never been happier, which hurts a bit given that we had 30 years of marriage and three children, but he has made his choice.”

Photo Source: The Mirror