A million cheers for the Secret Millionaire

By Candice Krieger
August 20, 2008

Did you see last night’s The Secret Millionaire on Channel 4? Property chief Nick Leslau gave away close to £400,000 to worthy causes in Glasgow. He swapped his luxury lifestyle to become an undercover volunteer in one of Glasgow’s most deprived areas.

At the end of the ten-day stint, he pledged £100,000 to a riding school for children with special needs, £50,000 to Guide Dogs for the Blind and £225,000 to a disability centre. No biggie for a man worth an estimated £200 million?

Think again.

Granted, Mr Leslau can afford to dig deep into his pockets – his company has assets of £3 billion, including hotels, hospitals, Madame Tussauds and Alton Towers. So can any number of Britain’s top business players. But how many do?

In the last series, David Pearl, chairman of property company Structadene, gave £50,000 to various causes in Portsmouth.

How refreshing to see businessmen investing their money, with no expectation of reward or return. Last night, I enjoyed watching Mr Leslau (with beautifully conditioned locks and tan) clean toilets and stick his hand up a horse’s rear-end. But what moved me most was his honesty.

He confessed that he had previously been prejudiced towards disabled people, even crossing the street to avoid them. He was genuinely humbled by helping and befriending some of the neediest people in the area, touched by the extent and impact of poverty, drugs, deprivation and violence in the area. Mr Leslau did not have a long-term solution, but he certainly did his bit.

He has since returned to Glasgow to see those he met and has signed up to carry out voluntary work near his home. “Big deal,” one commuter said on the tube this morning. “He’s back in his millionaire’s lifestyle now.” True, Mr Leslau has since returned to his Mayfair home comforts and is probably sitting pretty in his yacht in the Med. But, as for the people he met in Glasgow, their lives will never be the same again.

Let’s not knock him. Besides, hasn’t he earned that lifestyle?

His cheques will go a long way to help those individuals and organisations, and there are so many more causes in need of help. Fellow business chiefs might want to take a leaf out of Mr Leslau’s book.


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