A sad story just got sadder, with Jonah Lomu revealed in death as down at the heel, when in life he gave the impression of being well-heeled.
'There will never be another Jonah Lomu'
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'There will never be another Jonah Lomu'
Family, friends and fans pay tribute to All Blacks great Jonah Lomu at a public memorial service in South Auckland.
Perhaps the best known rugby player the world has seen, Lomu was handed a short life and money-sapping medical ailments.
His own character traits led him to poor management, expensive taste in cars, few marketable skills of appeal to the corporate environment, failed businesses and two divorces.
Stir in a generous nature combined with the inevitable money-obsessed hangers-on, and Lomu was caught in the eye of a perfect storm which swiftly eroded the monetary trappings of his spectacular career as rugby's rampaging rhino.
A month after his death at 40, a public begging bowl has been put out to help provide for his sons, Brayley and Dhyreille, with an independent trust established by the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association.
The Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust excludes his widow Nadene Lomu - who had once been his manager - as a beneficiary or from having control of any of the funds. She can apply to it for money to help raise their sons.
In 2003, Lomu was the $10 million man - the only rugby player to make the National Business Review's rich list of top sporting personalities.
Before a serious kidney disorder ended his international career, marketers pegged his annual income from endorsements and sponsorships alone at about $3.5m.
There are parallels with world champion boxer Joe Louis and stellar footballer George Best, elite athletes who left little but crowd-pleasing memories behind when they died.
Lomu did not become an alcoholic like Best, who famously quipped "I spent 90 percent on women, drink and fast cars, the rest I wasted", though some of his earnings undoubtedly did escape on the cars and women route.
Lomu, a devout Mormon, didn't drink or gamble. If he had a vice it was luxury vehicles. Two divorces would have been costly.
Louis died destitute, with psychiatric problems, stricken by strokes and a heart problem, after his management siphoned away the greater proportion of his winnings. His 1981 funeral - with full military honours - was partly paid for by his German boxing rival Max Schmeling, who was a pallbearer.
Lomu stormed into the public eye, at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. By the early 2000s, his health was declining. So to would his income have been.
A prominent player agent, who did not want to be named, said there was "big misconception" about how much money most professional rugby players could command after they hung up their boots.
"If you are Richie [McCaw] or Dan [Carter] your opportunities to secure quite significant income on top of what you are paid for playing the game are pretty good. But those two guys are a really in a league of their own when it comes to earnings away from rugby.
"The thing about Jonah, and you could say similar about a lot of players, is that though he was articulate there was a limit to what he could actually be articulate about.
"He had a strong intellect, but was not in that space where he would hold a big crowd on those sort of [corporate] topics. Not everyone can do that and there is a major misconception about what people are willing to pay for people to do ceremonial stuff.
"Jonah was a wonderful person and did that sort of thing wonderfully well, but corporates around the world just don't really buy that."
Lomu made good money as a player, though he was mismanaged.
Overseas deals with Cardiff in 2005-06, then a lower division French club in 2009, would not have been well paid.
Retirement could be "brutal" for professional athletes in any sport with earning potential eroding at a rapid rate as the glow of their playing career past into history, the agent said.
"We all still knew who he was, but outside of New Zealand at a certain age group they didn't know a lot about him. The 1995 World Cup was a hell of a long time ago and even his exploits on the field after that was a long time ago.
"We all remember them because we have a reason to, but the corporates trying to sell their services, the banks, the insurance companies who are trying to sell to 23 to 28 year-olds he didn't hold a massive appeal."
While larger deals began to dry up as Lomu became less active on the field, his business interests had been building for several years.
An early venture called Global 11 Travel, of which Lomu was a director and shareholder, did not work out. It lasted just over two years before being placed in liquidation in 1999, by order of the High Court.
Lomu also developed a portfolio of property, mostly held through companies Wesley Holdings and Stylez Ltd.
He famously had a portfolio of fast cars and loud speakers, with a fleet of 16 vehicles at one point.
By the time of his death, his Mercedes van, with 'J0NAH' licence plates was bought using finance from a personal loan company. A 2012 Mercedes-Benz, owned by Stylez and bearing the licence plate 'NADES1', also had money owing on it.
He lived in a $2.2m Auckland home, but was a tenant - property records list the owners as Tai Qin and Jie Wue.
One source said he had to give the impression of being successful, as promoters would not have been interested in someone who drove an ordinary car and lived in a modest home.
The only property registered in his name, an apartment in Wellington's Te Aro, was mortgaged, as were two other apartments owned through Stylez.
Lomu bought a five-bedroom, 440 square metre mansion in Maupuia when he joined the Hurricanes in 2000. It sold in 2003 for $1.14 million.
Some of his assets may have gone towards what was reported to be a "hefty" divorce settlement with first wife Tanya Michaels (formerly Tanya Rutter), with lawyers duking it out for months.
Michaels lodged a notice of claim over the couple's south Auckland lifestyle block, which was withdrawn when the property sold in 2006 for $1.5m.
Property records show a third Wesley Holdings property, in Auckland's Freeman's Bay, is now owned by Lomu's second wife and former manager, Fiona Taylor.
Lomu was recently earning $10,000 a pop for speaking engagements as he cashed in on his heroics at the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. He's also had lucrative gigs with adidas, Mastercard and Heineken.
Pinning down details of Lomu's rugby earnings is about as difficult as tackling the 120kg superstar, but Lomu was at the top of the wage bill for most of his time in the black jersey.
Sports Marketing Conference chief executive Simon Arkwright said it was clear that he had given his money and time to charitable trusts at the expense of his own family. The decision to contribute to charity is determined by the link to the cause.
"It shifts from being a worthy cause, which is more about the recipient, to thinking do I owe this person some of my hard earned? To me it is an unwritten contract. Jonah has given me a lot of enjoyment and took rugby to where it is and he inspired a worldwide Polynesian community."