Richard Pratt dead

April 28, 2009 by J-Wire Staff
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The Jewish Community…and the rest of Australia, has lost one of its greatest benefactors. Richard Pratt has passed away in his Melbourne home.

Richard Pratt  b. December 10, 1934 in Gdansk, Poland

d. April 28, 2009, Melbourne from prostrate cancer.

A man who will be remembered for the good he did throughout his life…in spite of his reputation being sullied after admitting last year to a price-fixing scandal between his Visy box-making empire and his main competitor resulting in  $36 million fine and the return of his Companion of the Order of Australia.

His life was chequered with low spots being the price-fixing scandal, the National Crime Authority investigation into his involvement with Melbourne identity John Elliott, the failed sale of the Occidental Insurance business in 1990 and the public revelation in 2000 about his Sydney mistress and their 3-year-old daughter.

But  he will also be remembered for the highs. A colourful character who took a keyboard player on many of his business trips and who wwould entertain his business partners with a song and dance act following a deal, Pratt  was the consummate philanthropist, reputedly donating $1 million a month to charities. He was openly acknowledged as having been the most generous man in Australia.

Pratt’s parents moved to Melbourne from Poland in 1938, establishing an orchard in Shepparton before branching out into the box-making business. The box-making was to become the foundation of the Visy empire which today employs more than 9000 people around the world.

In his early years, Pratt took time out to follow his passion for public performance and resisted efforts by Hollywood great Burt Lancaster to join him in Hollywood and pursue a career in movies.

Another passion was his beloved Carlton Football Club. In the 1950s he played  in the second team earning a medal for best and fairest in 1953. He was to go on to become president of the Club.

He loved boxing and through his outgoing personality he befriended Muhammed Ali, bringing him to Australia in 2000.

He had a special place in his heart for the Arts and has been quoted as having donated more than $140 million to artistic causes and chaired the Victorian Arts Centre in the 1990s.

Many obituaries will be written about Richard Pratt and we simply report his passing and the loss of a special man. He once said: “The secret of success is…look after your best customers, look after you best suppliers, look after your best staff….and collect your receivables.”

A tad simplistic? The results are on the table.

He is survived by his wife Jeanne and children Anthony, Heloise, Fiona and Paula.

Frank Lowy, Chairman of Westfield, has paid tribute to his close friend.

“I’m honoured to add my condolences to the many thousands that will be delivered to the Pratt family at this difficult time.

Dick was a close and good friend, to me and to so many others, in good times and bad. In that respect the Australian ethos of true mateship ran in his veins.

In business he fulfilled a vision of epic proportions, and he had a work ethic to match it. He gave back to his community, financially and with personal commitment, heart and soul, on the same scale.

The troubles that beset him late in his life were faced with characteristic resolve – both to accept what he must with dignity, but also to confront and ultimately deny those who demanded more of him than he owed.

He will long be remembered for the many great works he undertook, and for the thousands of lives that were made better by his being.

I will miss him very much and my love and prayers are with his family.”

Richard Pratt will be buried on Thursday at Melbourne’s Lyndhurst Cemetery following a service at the Kew Synagogue.

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