Geoff Polites, who's stewardship of Land Rover and Jaguar improved the health of both properties, has succumbed after a long illness. Polites led Jaguar and Land Rover back to collective profitability, and kept a steady hand on the helm during the upheaval surrounding the sale to Tata a month ago. While rumors swirled and pundits punned, it was Polites leadership that kept Jaguar and Land Rover on an even keel, with heads down and concentrating, instead of freaking out. Polites spent 40 years in the automotive business, and rose to CEO at Jaguar Land Rover in 2005. Both brands have strong, stylish product portfolios with name cachet, and David Smith, CFO of Jaguar Land Rover will step in as acting CEO for now. Press release after the jump.

[Source: Ford]


PRESS RELEASE

GEOFF POLITES, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, JAGUAR LAND ROVER, DIES
DEARBORN, Mich., April 20, 2008 – Geoff Polites, chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover, has died peacefully in his home country of Australia. He was 60.

Mr. Polites, who is credited with leading the team that returned the Jaguar Land Rover business back to profitability and successfully steering it through its ongoing sale process to Tata Motors, had been battling serious illness for the past two years.

"Geoff's untimely passing robs his family and friends of a man who was a real inspiration to us all," said Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer, Ford Motor Company. "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. Geoff ensured that Jaguar Land Rover was not distracted and continued to focus on the fundamentals of the business during the recent sale process, despite at the time also fighting his own personal health battle.

"He was a trusted colleague and someone who was much respected not just by his peers but by all who had the privilege to work with him. Our sympathies are with his wife and family at this difficult time," said Mulally.

Lewis Booth, executive vice president responsible for Ford Motor Company's businesses in Europe, said: "For many of us at Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, we've lost not just a respected colleague but a great friend.

"Geoff was always someone to look up to throughout his almost 40-year career in the automotive industry. His passion for the car business was legend, but the resolve he showed since taking over as CEO of Jaguar Land Rover in 2005 was something very special.

"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 the 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 at Jaguar Land Rover until a successor is appointed.