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My brother didn't squander £11m fortune

PUBLISHED: 08:15 03 September 2004 | UPDATED: 18:09 24 February 2010

By Patrick Lowman

A BUSINESSMAN has defended the reputation of his brother after he was accused of squandering a celebrated artist's multi-million-pound fortune.

By Patrick Lowman

A BUSINESSMAN has defended the reputation of his brother after he was accused of squandering a celebrated artist's multi-million-pound fortune.

John Edwards has been accused of frittering away an £11m legacy left to him by his long-time companion, the artist Francis Bacon, on a Champagne lifestyle.

Bacon shocked the art world on his deathbed when he left his entire fortune to John Edwards - the illiterate son of a London docker.

He was Bacon's favourite model, appearing in 30 of his paintings, including Three studies For A Portrait of John Edwards that sold for more than £3m in 2001.

John Edwards died last year at the age of 53, but his reputation is still dogged with national newspapers claiming he engineered his friendship with the artist and used the bond purely for financial gain.

Recent probate revelations, which showed John Edwards' estate was worth just over £3m, reduced to less than £1m after tax and debts, have added fuel to the fire.

Now his younger brother David, an antiques dealer from Long Melford, has decided to speak out in defence of his sibling.

He insisted the pair had a true friendship, adding his brother had cared deeply for Bacon and looked after him during his life, ensuring no-one was able to take advantage of the artist's generosity.

“My brother never used Francis for personal gain, they were the greatest of friends. Francis didn't suffer fools lightly, but my brother was a great judge of character and he made sure nobody took advantage of what he had,” said David Edwards.

“They were never lovers, just the closest of friends. Francis had hundreds of lovers, but he never left them anything, that tells its own story.”

David Edwards also refuted suggestions his family's substantial financial successes had been funded by Bacon's “missing millions”.

He said: “John did look after his family, but our family has not been successful off the back of Francis' fortune, we all made money independently.

“A lot has been said about John and our family in the newspapers, but that doesn't bother us.

“People have often assumed John was stupid because he wasn't formally educated, but anyone who knew him knows the truth and that is all he cared about.”

John Edwards, who owned homes in Long Melford and Hartest, near Sudbury, has been accused of squandering Bacon's £11m fortune in less then a decade.

But his brother, who is a multi-millionaire in his own right, insisted the money had been well invested and claimed £50m would be a closer estimate of his sibling's wealth.

“You have to remember he was already a multi-millionaire when he inherited the £11m. Then later more of Francis's paintings were uncovered, which John also owned and received royalties for. His fortune was in excess of £50m,” said David Edwards.

“What people do not realise is that my brother knew he was going to die for 18 months. Like any true businessman he planned what he was going to do with his money long before he died and disposed of most of it before his death.

“He was a very shrewd and clever man and I can assure you he never squandered any of Francis' money, in fact he used it very wisely.

“John was a multi-millionaire in his own right through his property dealing before Francis died. John didn't need to use Francis for any reason, he knew lots of talented and famous people and they all loved him dearly.”

He added: “John was a fantastic and clever businessman. He may not have been able to read or write, but he could certainly add up.

“John didn't squander any of the money. We as a family know exactly what has happened to all the money, but John's wish was that everything was kept confidential and we will not breach his trust and neither will anybody else.

“He also put a huge amount of money into setting up the John Edwards Charitable Trust, which promotes the work of Francis Bacon and supports up and coming artists.”

Since his death much of Bacon's work has remained unaccounted for, but David Edwards said his family knew the whereabouts of many of the paintings.

“It is fair to say some of Francis' work is still in the family hands, but I will not say more than that,” he added.

National newspapers have also suggested that John Edwards' partner for more that 20 years, Phil Mordue, had inherited the Bacon fortune.

The pair had a homosexual relationship and had homes in Hartest, Long Melford, New York, London and Florida. They were together at their penthouse department in Thailand when John Edwards died of cancer.

David Edwards said Mr Mordue had received some of the estate, but stressed money had also been shared between other friends, family members and charitable causes.

“My brother was an extremely generous person who looked after those he loved. He loved Philip dearly and he has been looked after, and so he should be,” he added.

John Edwards was one of six children born to his East End parents. The family was initially involved in the pub trade and property dealing in London and all the children have become financially successful..

David Edwards moved to Suffolk several years ago and is a successful business property owner and antique dealer, owning antique shops in Long Melford and Cavendish.

patrick.lowman@eadt.co.uk

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