Jaguar Land Rover CEO dies from cancer
21 April 2008

Jaguar Land Rover CEO Geoff Polites has lost his long battle with cancer, it was announced last night.Polites, 60, who died peacefully in his native Australia was one of the key architects in Land Rover's current global success and was predicting that he would also make Jaguar profitable this year. He was also playing a crucial role in the transition of the companies from Ford to Tata.The Jaguar Land Rover boss was an extremely highly regarded manager with huge experience in the automotive business, most of it garnered from a 40 year career with Ford. Prior to his JLR role he was the sales and marketing director for Ford of Europe. He had also run Ford of Australia.“Geoff’s untimely passing robs his family and friends of a man who was a real inspiration to us all,” said Ford boss Alan Mulally, “His drive and determination, combined with his clear sense of vision for the business, played a huge role in turning round the business at Jaguar Land Rover and returning it to profitability.Ford of Europe chairman Lewis Booth added, “His leadership of the team that has put the Jaguar Land Rover business back into profitability has been exceptional. Geoff has given Jaguar Land Rover a solid foundation and established the strong management team it needs for a successful future. We will miss our friend very much.” David Smith, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief financial officer, will take over as the acting chief executive officer until a successor is appointed.Polites was well known to many of the Autocar team and our sincere condolences go to his family.

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21 April 2008

Since hearing of his death yesterday, I've been thinking about little but Geoff Polites. Geoff was a young turk product planner at Ford Australia when we first meet. Tough, opinioniated, a clear and logical thinker. Not be to argued with unless you knew the facts and could rationally support any argument.

Geoff loved sport and Australian Rules football was often a subject of dinner conversation at press launches, after we'd agreed that there was nothing to be gained in persuing a discussion on the relative merits of the Cortina in Australian conditions. He was an Ozzie rules umpire at the highest level, which impressed the hell out of me, and became closely attached to the Sydney football team and thought about running the AFL before accepting the position as head of Jag and Land Rover. Yet, it was he who explained to me the importance and drama of the FA Cup.

After Geoff left Ford Australia to run the country's largest Ford dealer in the late 1980s, it was Jac Nasser who coaxed him back to FoMoCo. He ran a tight company, and will always be remembered for the pushing through the Dearborn bosses a program for Ford Australia to design and build the Territory, an Australian SUV that in many ways, like dynamics, is better than the BMW X5.

I last saw him at the Detroit show. His face was grey, he'd lost most of his hair over a weekend, yet the smile and sense of humour were still there. AIong with so many of business colleagues, I admired his intense honesty and bravery. In a reflective moment, he did wonder why a bloke who had never smoked (or drunk) should be lumbered with bloody cancer. He thought it was totally unfair and he was right.

Peter Robinson

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