Public scrutiny over the handling of Shane Warne’s charity cut the spin king deeper than any other scandal he would endure.
As the world woke to the 52-year old’s tragic death on Saturday, television powerhouse Eddie McGuire was still frothing at the mouth about how much that scandal had hurt his great mate.
‘The boy from Blackrock’ – a reference to his hometown in Melbourne’s southeast – had long been known for his kindness to strangers, especially to kids from all walks of life.
Shane Warne and former girlfriend Liz Hurley during a 2013 charity event for The Shane Warne Foundation
Shane Warne with tennis champ Novak Djokovic in 2017. It was the same year Warne shutdown The Warne Foundation
Shane Warne hands over more than $1million to the Australian Red Cross Relief and Recovery Fund after selling his beloved baggy green hat in 2020
But in 2015, his name was about to be dragged through the muck for longer than any other period that had come before in his life.
The Shane Warne Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation founded by Warne in 2004 – came under intense scrutiny over its performance and probity.
On Saturday, a clearly emotional McGuire couldn’t contain his disgust over how much the reporting of the charity’s collapse in 2017 had devastated Warne.
McGuire had been on the board of the foundation alongside Seek.com founder Andrew Bassat, then Crown executive Ann Peacock, former Essendon chairman David Evans, comedian Glenn Robbins, and Warne as chairman.
‘The amount of time he was down bowling in the nets with kids and doing all sorts of things. If you asked Warney for anything he just gave it,’ McGuire told Melbourne radio 3AW just hours after learning of Warne’s death.
‘The negative I look at today is the way he was run out of town with The Shane Warne Foundation, which was just one of the great beat-ups stories of all time. And that really hurt Warney, it really hurt Warney. It hurt all of ourselves onboard with him at the time.’
The foundation had been recognised as one of the most prominent celebrity charities in the country for more than a decade before it came crashing down.
It’s last ever function in 2015 saw a star-studded AFL Grand Final function sell out at $200 a plate.
Australian cricket legend Shane Warne (left) with Triple M radio host Mick Molloy (bottom) and Eddie McGuire, who on Saturday revealed Warne’s pain over reports on his charity
Shane Warne looks on during the Shane Warne Foundation Family Day at Luna Park on December 3, 2013
Shane Warne talks with children from the Rajasthan Royals UK academy in England in 2019
HOW WARNE’S FOUNDATION DIED
The Age newspaper called out The Shane Warne Foundation after it refused to handover its financial records in 2015.
The newspaper then ran a series of articles revealing the dire financial situation the foundation was in.
‘Media coverage of the foundation usually involved Australia’s greatest bowler smiling next to a sick a child, but this time, the questions were about the performance and probity of the charity. And there was nothing to smile about,’ they wrote in 2016.
The pair revealed the foundation had been running at a financial loss, donating just 11 cents to 32 cents of every dollar raised each year on behalf of sick and underprivileged children since 2011.
Consumer Affairs Victoria investigated and in 2017 cleared it of unlawful conduct.
Warne shut it down the same year.
Channel 9’s Karl Stefanovic joined comedian Mick Molloy and ex-footballers Wayne Carey, Garry Lyon and Sam Newman in entertaining the guests.
Not long after, Melbourne’s The Age newspaper began publishing a series of investigative reports that questioned the management of the charity.
Justification for the reports had to do with the gap between what Warne was saying the foundation had raised and what was actually being donated.
Warne was livid at the backlash, but the reality at the time was the foundation had been running at a financial loss for four out of the past five years.
During the Adelaide Test against New Zealand in November 2015, an incensed Warne hit out.
‘We’ve got absolutely nothing to hide at the Shane Warne Foundation. We’ve never done anything inappropriate. All we’ve tried to do is our best endeavours to make a serious difference,’ he told viewers.
On radio, alongside McGuire and Molloy, Warne continued his tirade during a 14-minute segment.
‘If you get the muppets out there that try to have a go at you, you think, “why do I do this?”‘ Warne said.
‘We’ve always tried to make sure the foundation was run on a shoestring budget.’
Warne branded the media’s investigation into the foundation’s financial performance a ‘witch hunt’ and told his Instagram followers he was the victim of a vendetta.
Shane Warne shows his support during the Shane Warne Foundation Family Day at Luna Park in 2013
Shane Warne attends the ‘All In For Charity’ poker tournament in Melbourne in 2019. He continued to give back after the collapse of his own foundation
Simone and Shane Warne in 2010. Warne would survive many a scandal, but none hurt him more personally than the attacks on his foundation
On Saturday, McGuire continued to defend Warne’s role in the charity and his genuine intentions to help those in need.
‘I had a ringside seat to what was going on and you know, it might have been reporting, you can report anything in various manners, but Warney raised that much money and saved people’s lives and changed people’s lives all the way through,’ McGuire said.
‘It wasn’t to big note, he had no desire whatsoever in any stage like that, he just gave with himself and I saw it first hand. It was incredible what he was doing and that hurt him.’
By the time The Shane Warne Foundation was cleared of any unlawful conduct by Consumer Affairs Victoria in January 2017, Warne had closed it down.
‘As expected CAV and the Commonwealth charity regulators have cleared the Shane Warne Foundation of any wrongdoing besides one late lodging of annual accounts by the due date in 2015,’ Warne posted to social media at the time.
‘The foundation, myself, management, ambassadors and the board have always maintained that nothing inappropriate had occurred and now it’s official after these thorough investigations.’
Warne would continue to give back to the community for the remainder of his life, McGuire said.
‘He got on with it and kept doing it quietly behind the scenes and helping everyone else’s foundations and being a part of it. He was a giver. He knew how lucky his life was. He knew that he mucked-up along the way,’ he said.
‘We all know everything that he did that was perceived to be wrong and things that were absolutely wrong and he got himself in some scrapes along the way, but mainly because of his giving nature.’
Shane Warne and Elizabeth Hurley at the Estee Lauder Charity Against Breast Cancer fundraiser in Moscow, Russia in 2011
Shane Warne (left) hands over another cheque in 2007
Shane Warne and kids from Stewart House in Curl Curl arrive for the BGC Charity event at the MLC Tower on September 11, 2008