LONG-TIME Geelong club president and philanthropist Frank Costa has died after a year-long battle with illness at the age of 83.
Costa passed away in his sleep on Sunday morning.
He took over the Geelong presidency when the AFL club was in serious financial trouble in 1998 and oversaw a major rebuild that led to one of its most successful eras.
The Cats won flags in 2007 and 2009 under Costa's presidency and a third one in 2011, the year he handed over to Colin Carter.
He formed a successful off-field partnership with Geelong chief executive Brian Cook in a period where the club's home ground at Kardinia Park - now known as GMHBA Stadium - was transformed into a state of the art venue.
AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder paid tribute to Costa's contribution to Australian Football.
"Frank Costa had the strongest of values around service, loyalty, hard work and dedication, which he applied to every part of his life," Mr Goyder said.
"He was a wonderful role model in business who worked to support the wider Geelong community through a range of philanthropic interests, while his fabulous passion for the Geelong Cats saw him commit thousands of hours of his time over many years to ensure the club was a respected and strong part of our national competition.
"He was a strong family man, with his devotion to his wife Shirley and eight daughters, and he will be terribly missed by our football community and all who knew him."
After taking over the family business with his brother at the age of 21, Costa was the driving force in turning the Costa Group into the largest fruit and vegetables wholesaler in Australia.
His net worth was estimated at $802 million in 2020 by the Financial Review Rich List.
Costa was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1997 for services to youth and the community.
In 2015, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.
Costa is survived by his wife of 61 years Shirley and eight daughters.