Why improving mental health?
In 1997, at the age of 47 years, Trevor Michael Abbott took his own life. He had friends, family, five children whom he adored, an extremely successful business career and was physically fit. No one will ever know his mental state behind his action. His family speculates he had undiagnosed depression – as the rock of the family, he always sought to support people and rarely revealed frailty. He slept only four hours a night and lived life to the full, cramming in work, family activities and sport without taking time to relax.
Mental health is still a deeply misunderstood topic and discussing those who have taken their own life – or consider it – is often taboo. "Cowardly", "brave" and "a way out" are all phrases attached to suicide.
Trevor's children believe that, often, suicide happens because a person is in such acute pain and mental suffering that, in their darkest hour, they are not capable of recognising that their pain can be alleviated with time and the right support.
It is for these reasons that improving mental health is one of the three targets of the Abbott Five Foundation.
If you need mental health support in the UK we sponsor the Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393
And seek help
Why improving children's lives?
The Abbott Five Foundation wants to help improve children's lives.
Losing a family member to suicide is incredibly traumatic for those left behind. Over the years, the founders' own experience of the pain and loss of losing their father when they were all under 21 has been acute, and led to them questioning if it could have been prevented. While this pain diminishes with time, it never truly ends.
Children can be particularly affected by losing a parent from suicide, and the Abbott Five Foundation wishes to support guiding these children, together with their families, friends and schools. We sponsor residency weekends for bereaved children through Winston's Wish.
Winston's Wish helpline is 0845 203 0405
Trevor was a big philanthropist and supported the welfare of many children anonymously through sponsorships, his connections to Cranleigh School and via the Wooden Spoon Society. The Abbott Five Foundation wishes to continue this work to remember him.
We will aim to support further wonderful projects helping children all over the world.
Why education in business?
Trevor was a believer in the potential of business as a force for good- a mantra which Sir Richard Branson and Jean Oelwang at Virgin Unite are influencing the world with. Trevor's ambition was to never retire, but increasingly give his time and commercial expertise to charities.
He believed that business skills could be applied to improve the world, and that more business people should go into charity and politics. He wanted people of all backgrounds – including the most underprivileged – to be given the opportunity to help themselves and others through entrepreneurship and business.
It is because the founders agree with these ideas that the Abbott Five Foundation supports education in business.
We sponsor finance courses at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship
Why Trevor Abbott?
Trevor's five children have launched the Abbott Five Foundation to remember him by supporting causes and charities that were close to his heart.
Who was Trevor Abbott?
Trevor was born in 1950 and spent his early childhood in Jamaica. He remained fond of the island hence the Abbott Five's support of Virgin Unite in Jamaica. He returned to Surrey, England, where he was educated at Cranleigh School. Due to financial difficulties suffered by his parents, he left Cranleigh aged 16 and trained to be an accountant, articled to Lord Wakeham, then working at Peat Marwick (KPMG).
Soon bored of the corporate world, he went onto work for MAM, who managed world-famous artists including Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Gilbert O'Sullivan.
In 1984, Trevor got a call from Richard Branson asking him to join Virgin as their group Finance Director. Trevor and Richard immediately had an affinity with one another – both had left school at a young age and shared a commercial vision of global expansion and an appetite for risk.
Working with Don Cruickshank, Trevor was instrumental in floating the Virgin Group on the stock market in 1988, and then managed the privatisation of the entrepreneurial company after the team decided that it was too restrictive being a public company.
Upon privatisation, Trevor became Managing Director of Virgin Group of Companies and, right up until his death, he worked very closely with Richard Branson to grow Virgin businesses in North America, Asia, Europe and Australia as well as the UK.
It was through Trevor's vision combined with his financial skills and with a mental map of the hundreds of Virgin companies, that he was able to support Richard's drive to build successive new companies. He also loved the excitment of the variety of businesses – in any one hour, he could be deep in discussion about hotels, the airline, cinemas, music retail, cola or launching a bank.
In 1997, although remaining on the boards of Virgin, Trevor launched his own investment company, Passport Alliance. Passport Alliance raised start up capital from Richard and Singaporean business magnate B.S.Ong. Although short-lived due to Trevor's untimely death, Passport Alliance's most successful investment was into the Seattle Coffee Company. Founders Scott and Ally Svenson appointed Trevor Chairman of the coffee company and it was later acquired by Starbucks as their first entry into the European market.
When Trevor died, he was on the board of 130 companies including the Virgin companies, Raymond Blanc's businesses, Storm Model agency and Wooden Spoon Society. Trevor supported many good causes anonymously, including the Wooden Spoon Society, and was a governor of Cranleigh School. He was a family man, keen golfer and tennis player.