Jonah Lomu died broke - now there's a plea to help his sons.
It's a stark truth that has emerged in the wake of the global rugby superstar's death, aged 40, prompting the creation of a trust aimed to provide for his boys Dhyreille, 6, and Brayley, 5.
The Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust excludes the boys' mother, Nadene, Lomu's third wife, as a beneficiary or from having control of any of the funds. However, she will be able to apply to the trust for money to help raise their sons.
The trust has been set up by the NZ Rugby Players Association, and chief executive Rob Nichol says it is a response by business people and friends of Lomu who recognised the need to support the couple's children.
It is now seeking donations from those who want to help Lomu's boys. Mr Nichol said those who set up the trust did so after seeing summaries of Lomu's financial affairs.
"There's not going to be any great windfall. There's not great savings there. There's certainly nothing that's going to sustain any ongoing financial benefit for the family.
"What we've seen is a statement of where it's at. And it's not there, assets and liabilities-wise. Our assessment is the family aren't going to be able to rely on any financial proceeds or ongoing benefits."
Finances entangled with debt
Lomu came to worldwide prominence at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995, but was later diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, which required a kidney transplant in 2004.
His body's rejection of the kidney in 2011 saw him seeking another transplant and again needing regular dialysis. He died last month after returning from a bout of heavy promotional work at the Rugby World Cup.
Herald inquiries show Lomu's finances entangled with debt. Public records also show his company, Stylez Ltd, has a 2012 Mercedes-Benz bought through UDC Finance bearing the registration plate "Nades1". Lomu also borrowed to buy his 2007 Mercedes V350 peoplemover, which carries the plate "J0nah".
His remaining assets were tied up in a series of apartments in Wellington owned through Stylez and mortgaged to Westpac. They were most recently valued at $740,000.
The family's home in the upmarket Auckland suburb of Epsom, where Lomu died of cardiac arrest, has a rateable value of $2.2 million but is a rental.
Mr Nichol said there would be questions about where Lomu's earnings had gone, with people assuming his income was in line with his status as world rugby's biggest star.
"When you look at where he's got to financially and why he's got there, his generosity was obviously a massive part of it. He has definitely taken on obligations of others - whether it's family or others close to him, whether it's financial or other kinds of obligations - at the expense of himself, Nadene and the boys."
He said there was also an aspect of Lomu growing into "such a big star so young" that led to him building "a facade, a wall". As the years passed, "he obviously felt he had to keep living that".
Mr Nichol said long dialysis sessions a number of times a week cut down the star's earning potential.
"People probably assumed he was still on a pretty good wicket and able to do a lot of work and earn a lot of money. I think we all assumed he was continuing to work and do this stuff but when we look at it now I don't think that was the case."
He said the recent Rugby World Cup had presented an opportunity for Lomu to earn big money and find opportunities that would help secure his family's future. "With his illness, it was a tough gig. The Rugby World Cup presented a good opportunity but, man, that took its toll in the worst and saddest way possible."
Focus on the boys
Mr Nichol said Lomu had lived life with an expectation he would work himself into a position where his family had what they needed.
"You're talking about a guy who, he would expect to be here right now. He was 40 years old when he passed. He didn't expect to pass. Despite his illness he's a pretty optimistic character. He backed himself to continue working, meet his obligations, take care of the people he needed to take care of, but he can't do that now."
Founding trustees of the Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust include lawyer and NZ Takeovers Panel chairman David Jones, investment manager John Phipps, Deloitte's partner Doug Wilson and former All Black Michael Jones. None of the trustees will charge for professional services provided to the trust, which is intended to provide for the care and education of Lomu's sons and and children they have.
The trust structure means Nadene Lomu will not have a role in controlling any funds raised although can turn to the trustees for housing and other needs which might arise. Mr Nichol: "The only beneficiaries are their two children and their children beyond them. We felt there was a real need to make this an independent stand-alone trust and therefore the family don't have any influence over it.
"Nadene is not named as a beneficiary because we wanted the clarity and sole focus being the two boys. Clearly, as the boys' mother, she's an integral part of their upbringing and their lives and she will definitely benefit as a result of what the trust chooses to do for the boys, but the focus is the boys."
Asked about the Givealittle page Nadene Lomu set up the day after Lomu died, Mr Nichol said people react to grief in different ways. "To be perfectly honest, not a great time to be making decisions. One way or another, there might have been a decision made but very quickly they realised it was not right and they did their best to sort that out."
The Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust was "not a Givealittle page; this is not an online subscription for funds. It's a simple website - jonahlomulegacy.com".
"We want to step up and provide those he's touched with an opportunity to help his kids. Look at what Jonah has done for so many people - so many of us have benefited," said Mr Nichol.
He said the beneficiaries of Lomu's work included anyone associated with rugby, whether it be the players' association, provincial rugby, New Zealand rugby or world rugby. "They've all benefited a little bit out of what Jonah did for the game."
How you can help
DONATE: Those wanting to donate to the trust set up for Jonah Lomu's sons can do so through the official jonahlomulegacy.com website or through the lomulegacy.com supporting website, powered by NZME's GrabOne. NZME is the parent company of the NZ Herald and NewstalkZB. Donations can also be made through any branch of the ASB Bank or by online banking to the Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust, account number 12-3647-0022925-00.