Bus company boss turned philanthropist loses battle with cancer

Go-Ahead bus boss turned philanthropist Trevor Shears has died after battling metastatic liver cancer

George Hepburn Philanthropist Trevor Shears and second wife Lyn
Philanthropist Trevor Shears and second wife Lyn

A former bus company boss turned philanthropist who donated millions to causes including the Sage Gateshead, Live Theatre and Tyneside Cinema has died.

Trevor Shears was part of the management buy-out that formed Newcastle transport firm Go Ahead in 1987.

And the company’s public flotation in the mid-1990s brought him immense wealth - but he gave more than half of it away.

Born in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, on March 17 1945 Trevor Halliday Shears was the second son of Kathy and Douglas Shears.

The family, including elder brother Peter, lived in Thornton, Bradford, and Trevor attended Bradford Grammar School - where he would later return to fund two bursaries.

He began his career as a trainee chartered accountant in his home city, at the firm Moss Swallow and Isles, then moved onto a number of other practices in West Yorkshire and finally qualified while with Peat Marwick Mitchell.

In 1974 he entered the bus industry as assistant secretary/accountant at The Northern General Transport Company.

After a three year stint at East Yorkshire Motor Services, he returned to Northern General in 1979 to become the company secretary, then finance director and was part of the management buy-out when the bus industry was deregulated in 1987 and Northern General became the Go-Ahead Group.

Go-Ahead floated on the stock market in 1994, reportedly making Trevor in the region of £20m, but in 1996 he retired to spend more time with his second wife Lyn and pursue his great love of transport, especially the Seaton Tramway in Devon, where he would ultimately become chairman of the company.

But it is for his charitable work for which he will likely be best remembered.

The Duchess of Northumberland opening the shoots and roots poly tunnel at Alnwick garden
The Duchess of Northumberland opening the shoots and roots poly tunnel at Alnwick garden

Trevor and Lyn founded the Shears Foundation in 1994 with an initial endowment of £8m and over 18 years helped a range of causes - everything from restoring trams to encouraging young opera singers.

Among the grants the couple supported a number of projects in the North East, including £300,000 for the Sage Gateshead, £70,000 towards the refurbishment of the Live Theatre on Newcastle Quayside - with £10,000 annually for the theatre’s education programme to encourage young playwrights - and money for the refit of the Tyneside Cinema.

The Shears also funded a number of environmental projects, with grants of up to £10,000 for The Woodland Trust, and support for a furniture-recycling project in Northumberland that provides employment for people, who often have special needs.

On the health and medical front, the Foundation gave money towards Alzheimer’s Research, while the couple also created an endowment with the Community Foundation in Tyne and Wear, and funded Open University scholarships.

Recently the Foundation’s endowment was reported to have grown to £14m and the couple were giving away around £800,000 a year.

But Trevor himself - who was awarded an OBE for services to charities in 2009 - admitted he could never have imagined how his life would turn out.

“I expected to be an accountant all my life with a reasonable middle-class sort of existence, but what has happened since 1987 was not even a wild dream before then,” he said.

Trevor was diagnosed with metastatic liver cancer earlier this year and died May 10, surrounded by his family.

Trevor is survived by wife Lyn, his two children from his first marriage, Amanda and Richard, step children Mark and Louise, and seven grandchildren.

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