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Tributes flow for Geoff Polites

Honoured: More than 500 guests paid tribute to Geoff Polites yesterday.

Blue Oval legend Geoff Polites receives a fitting farewell at the MCG

General News logo29 Apr 2008


THE motor industry paid its last respects to one of its most popular leaders at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday.

More than 500 guests paid tribute to Jaguar and Land Rover’s global CEO and former Ford Australia president Geoff Polites, who died a week ago after a long battle with cancer.

He was a much-loved man both within and outside the industry, a man with three great passions in life – family, football and Ford – although there was some dispute about the order.

Industry heavyweights at the service included former Ford Australia president Bill Dix and vice-president Ian Vaughan, current president Bill Osborne, Toyota Australia chairman emeritus John Conomos, Holden director Allison Terry, Mitsubishi Australia president Rob McEniry, Mazda Australia managing director Doug Dickson, a large contingent of the motoring media with whom he had a strong relationship and, of course, hundreds of Ford corporate and dealer colleagues both past and present.

 center imageOverseas visitors included the man who succeeded him as Ford Australia president, Tom Gorman, and the head of Ford of Europe, Lewis Booth, who spoke eloquently of Mr Polites’ ability to motivate a team of people.

Mr Booth, who personally recruited Mr Polites to Europe before he even had a job for him, told the audience that he had been the perfect choice to lead Jaguar Land Rover back to health and revealed how he impressed all at Ford of Europe by quickly learning to speak German while working in Cologne.

The memorial heard touching tributes from his two sons, Brent and Chris, as well as friends Russell Ekas, Paul Spon-Smith and Sydney Ford dealer Paul Warren.

As a champion bloke, it was fitting that the memorial service was conducted in the Olympic Room at Australia’s spiritual home for sport, overlooking the spot where defender Leo Barry crashed through the pack to take mark that confirmed the 2005 premiership for Mr Polites’ beloved Sydney Swans.

That was possibly the sporting highlight of Mr Polites’ life, but sadly it came at the same time he was diagnosed with cancer. Nevertheless, he experienced that Grand Final victory from the privilege of the Swans box sitting alongside coach Paul Roos, who was present at Monday’s service, along with Leo Barry, a number of other members of that historic playing squad, club chairman Richard Colless and Brownlow Medallists Gerard Healy and Adam Goodes.

One man who shared two of Mr Polites’ passions was former Swans captain Dennis Carroll, who was set up with a job at City Ford in Sydney – where Geoff was dealer principal for a decade between stints with Ford Australia – and who has since risen to the position of dealer principal himself.

As if to underline the esteem with which he is held by the Swans, the former captain spoke emotionally of Geoff’s passion for the club, the way he helped the players at the club on a personal level and his dedication in attending games from the most remote locations – including one notable occasion when he broke away from a first-class dealer trip (and his wife Linda) in New York to catch a final at the SCG before grabbing the next flight out to rejoin the group in Paris.

Geoff Polites was certainly one of those people who touched everyone who knew him and clearly packed more into his life than most.

Which is just as well because he was taken much too soon at the age of just 60, still charged with the energy and enthusiasm for life that made such an impression on all 500 people at the MCG on Monday.

As one speaker sagely noted, Geoff Polites was a big man trapped in a small man’s body.

Read more:

Geoff Polites: True Blue

Vale Geoff Polites: ‘an inspiration to us all’

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