Australia

'Giant of Victorian culture': Tributes for ex-Grand Prix boss Ron Walker after his death

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Businessman and former head of the Grand Prix Ron Walker has died at the age of 78. Tributes have started flowing in for the 'great Australian'.

Businessman and former Grand Prix boss Ron Walker has died from cancer. He was 78.

The millionaire who played a role in the creation of Crown Casino had battled the disease for years, News Corp Australia reported.

Mr Walker retired as chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation in 2015 after a 22-year stint.

The high-profile Melbourne businessman was an AC - Companion of the Order of Australia and was Melbourne's 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation chairman.

He became a prominent Liberal Party figure, working as national treasurer of the party from 1987 to 2002.

His relationship with former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett helped him to become the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.

He helped deliver Melbourne the hosting rights for the event from Adelaide in 1993.

In 1976 he held a partnership with another Melbourne businessman, Lloyd Williams and the pair formed a property development company called Hudson Conway, which developed the Crown Casino complex in Melbourne.

He also served as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1974 to 1976.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Mr Walker "was a giant of Victorian culture and political life".

"Whether feared or revered, Ron was someone who you never forgot. Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1974 to 1976, it was much later in life that Ron’s legacy would be most felt," Mr Andrews said in a statement.

"As chairman of the Victorian Major Events Corporation, Ron helped put Victoria back on the map – working to attract the biggest and the best events to Victoria.

"It's in great part thanks to Ron that we are now known as the sporting capital of the world."

Mr Andrews said Mr Walker's commitment was not only seen in sport but through assisting others.

"Even as he faced his own lengthy battle with cancer, Ron was working to help other patients and their families through his philanthropic pursuits," Mr Andrews said.

"To his wife Barbara, their children and grandchildren, we extend our deepest sympathies."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took to Twitter to pay his respects to the influential figure who helped shape Melbourne.

"Vale Ron Walker - a great Australian, magnificent Melburnian & ferociously committed Liberal. Ron was a wise and true friend to me as he was to so many Liberal leaders. We will not see his like again. Our hearts go out to Barbara and their family at this sad time," Mr Turnbull said.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader Bill Shorten did the same, saying: "Vale Ron Walker, a man of big ideas and great generosity. Modern Melbourne owes much to his vision and drive."

Former prime minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to Mr Walker on Twitter.

"Australia, Victoria and Melbourne have lost a great son with Ron Walker’s passing. For decades, not much happened in Melbourne without Ron being at the centre of things," Mr Abbott said.

"As well, he was a great supporter of good causes, from medical research to the Liberal Party, which he helped to keep together in tough times.

"He was a staunch friend and constant encouragement to successive Liberal leaders and will be much missed."

- with additional reporting from Louise Cheer

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