Pas­sion the driv­ing force

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

HERE is what some of Ge­off’s friends, col­leagues and ri­vals have to say about him.

JAC NASSER, for­mer CEO of Ford Mo­tor Com­pany

‘‘Ge­off was not only a long-stand­ing and good friend, he was just a spe­cial per­son, a great ex­ec­u­tive and a won­der­ful fam­ily man.

‘‘When we were search­ing for a new CEO for Ford Aus­tralia I just kept com­ing back to the need for a jolt of en­ergy. We needed some­one who knew the mar­ket and knew the com­pany. And the most im­por­tant thing was a good feel for the prod­uct and some strong lead­er­ship.

‘‘Ge­off was top of the list but he told me later he thought I was kid­ding when I called to talk to him. It took four or five min­utes for him to re­alise I was se­ri­ous, then he ba­si­cally ac­cepted on the spot.’’

PETER HA­NEN­BERGER, for­mer chair­man of Holden

‘‘Meet­ing Ge­off the first time per­son­ally af­ter he had taken of­fice as CEO of Ford Aus­tralia I felt im­me­di­ately that there was a lot of com­mon chem­istry be­tween the two of us.

‘‘De­spite be­ing fierce com­peti­tors we de­vel­oped from that day on a valu­able busi­ness re­la­tion that en­abled us to move Ford and Holden to new heights and de­velop fu­ture plans with the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment for a pros­per­ing, long-last­ing Aus­tralian auto in­dus­try.

‘‘I ad­mired Ge­off as a true Aussie bat­tler whom I al­ways could rely on. I thank him for that.’’

CRAIG LOWN­DES, rac­ing driver

‘‘He was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting me to make the big switch from Holden to Ford. My mem­o­ries are of a per­son full of char­ac­ter, 110 per cent be­hind motorsport. In the first four years when I was at Ford and things weren’t go­ing well, he took it per­son­ally.

‘‘And he was an hon­est man who called a spade a spade. He was straight-up, a no-bulls--- guy.’’

PETER ROBIN­SON, Wheels mag­a­zine

‘‘Ge­off was a young turk prod­uct plan­ner at Ford Aus­tralia when we first met. Tough, opin­ion­ated, a log­i­cal thinker. Not to be ar­gued with un­less you knew the facts and could ra­tio­nally sup­port an ar­gu­ment.

‘‘In a re­flec­tive mo­ment, he did won­der why a bloke who had never smoked (or drunk) should be

IT WOULD be easy to paint this week black af­ter the death of Ge­off Po­lites. But that is not what he would have wanted. Ge­off’s glass — al­ways a diet Coke dur­ing the many work­ing break­fasts we shared over the years — was al­ways half-full. Or over­flow­ing.

There are so, so many Po­lites sto­ries — and nowhere near enough time or space.

I can clearly re­mem­ber some of our stand-up stoushes dur­ing his time as chair­man of Ford Aus­tralia, his ela­tion on achiev­ing a goa­head for the Ter­ri­tory, his com­mit­ment to the Fal­con, his pride in lur­ing Craig Lown­des away from Holden, and the hard work he put in once he moved to Europe and even­tu­ally earned his dream job as head of Jaguar and Land Rover.

And, al­ways, there were the Syd­ney Swans. No one was more com­mit­ted to their footy team than Ge­off.

But let me share one story that says so much about the man.

It was the Detroit Mo­tor Show last year. A small group of Aussies was at a loose end for a day, and shop­ping seemed like a good idea. So Ge­off vol­un­teered to drive.

He did not or­gan­ise a car, or pro­vide his chauf­feur, but drove us for the day. And what a day. He took us to his favourite mall, let us lis­ten as he got shop­ping in­struc­tions from his wife, Linda, mod­elled hats in the menswear store and talked and talked about the state of the car world, footy, phi­los­o­phy and his per­sonal dis­ap­point­ment in some re­cent de­ci­sions at Ford Aus­tralia.

Then he dropped one of the team at a book­store and waited while he shopped be­fore shout­ing us to lunch at his favourite ham­burger bar, then a chauf­feured drive back to our ho­tel.

Ge­off was more like a mate than a mogul that day — and ev­ery other day.

You al­ways knew he was a heavy hit­ter and he hated time wasters, but he loved ev­ery­thing about his job and the car busi­ness.

That is why he never con­sid­ered early re­tire­ment and a home life in the sun when he was di­ag­nosed with can­cer.

The doc­tors gave him five years, but he was short-changed. All of us were short-changed.

Ge­off didn’t come home to die last week, he was here to cel­e­brate the birth of his first grand­child. His cup was over­flow­ing again.

We loved him for it and now he is gone. To­day is Anzac Day and I can­not help think­ing of the words: ‘‘Lest we for­get’’. lum­bered with bloody can­cer. He though it was to­tally un­fair and he was right.’’

JOHN CREN­NAN, for­mer CEO of Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles

‘‘Our ca­reers of­ten ran in uni­son, par­tic­u­larly when we were work­ing in Syd­ney, and he was al­ways a fair and good-hearted com­peti­tor. I can only imag­ine how pop­u­lar he was with his own peo­ple be­cause even to ri­vals he was a per­son of out­stand­ing cal­i­bre.

DAVID McCARTHY, PR head, Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia

‘‘My for­ever-fond mem­o­ries of Ge­off will be of a highly in­tel­li­gent, pas­sion­ate, in­no­va­tive per­fec­tion­ist with his feet firmly placed at ground level.

‘‘Last year, af­ter see­ing Ge­off in Frank­furt, I bought him a hat (a Ger­man-styled fe­dora) to keep the English win­ter at bay, be­cause he was con­scious of his ap­pear­ance. Ge­off al­ways thought of oth­ers and the hat de­flected peo­ple’s at­ten­tion from his health.

‘‘He was my mate and men­tor, a great man. I’ll miss him heaps.’’

Nasser

Cren­nan

Ha­nen­berger

McCarthy

Pos­i­tive out­look: Ge­off Po­lites al­ways saw the cup as half-full.

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