msnbc.com
updated 3/10/2010 6:49:43 PM ET 2010-03-10T23:49:43

A 41-year-old millionaire businessman who nearly died in a car crash eight years ago is leaving behind his exquisite 16th-century farmhouse and lavish lifestyle to move to a mud hut in Uganda and start a children's charity.

Jon Pedley plans to sell his telecommunications businesses, a $1.5 million Essex farmhouse with a 1-acre garden and his furniture to raise cash for African orphans, the U.K. Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

His charity, Uganda Vision, will send troubled British children to Uganda where they will help locals orphaned by AIDS and poverty.

The self-made tycoon has a troubled past that includes a criminal record, alcoholism and affairs. He says a serious car crash in 2002 in which he almost died led him to find God.

"I've lived an incredibly selfish existence," Pedley, of Finchingfield, Essex, was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. "I've been convicted of crime, slept rough, been an alcoholic, had affairs, and damaged people's lives including my own. I've always put the pursuit of money in front of everything else."

In college, Pedley said, he began smoking and drinking and stealing from shops and his parents. After leaving school, he received a suspended jail sentence for fraud and theft after scams including selling the furniture at a rented flat, the Daily Mail reported.

Pedley married, continued to drink heavily, cheated on and later divorced his wife.

In 2002, he had been drinking when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a van. He was in a coma for six weeks.

After making a full recovery he said he found religion and gave up alcohol.

'I'm now teetotaler and I try to live my life in a way that pleases God,' he told the Daily Mail.

Inspired by a friend's work in Uganda, he is selling his 16th-century Essex farmhouse and businesses, Empowered Communications and Eme Tech, to fund his charity.

'I've never been more sure about anything in my life,' he said.

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