Passion the driving force
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.’’
Positive outlook: Geoff Polites always saw the cup as half-full.