A LEADING figure in F1 motorsport, staunch Liberal Party supporter, successful businessman and all-round fighter.
That’s how friends, political allies and fellow business names have remembered Ron Walker, who has died aged 78.
Mr Walker, the man who brought the Australian Grand Prix to Melbourne, died after battling cancer for several years.
The millionaire Melbourne businessman was the Australian F1 Grand Prix Corporation chairman for 22 years before retiring in 2015.
He wrested the world-renowned race from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1993 and played a role in the creation of Crown Casino, and was briefly Melbourne’s Lord Mayor in the 1970s.
Mr Walker was a prominent Liberal Party figure, working as national treasurer of the party from 1987 to 2002.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull led the tributes describing him as “a great Australian, magnificent Melburnian and 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 tweeted.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten described Walker as “a man of big ideas and generosity”. “Modern Melbourne owes much to his vision and drive.”
Former prime minister Tony Abbott wrote: “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.
“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.”
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport tweeted: “CAMS is saddened to learn of the passing of former Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker. “His contribution to the Australian motorsport landscape will forever be remembered.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said “whether feared or revered, Ron was someone who you never forgot”.
“It’s in great part thanks to Ron that (Melbourne is) now known as the sporting capital of the world,” he said in a statement.
Mr Walker’s relationship with former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett helped him to become the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and in delivering Melbourne the hosting rights for the event.
Mr Walker served as chairman of Fairfax Media from 2005 to 2009 and was an AC – Companion of the Order of Australia.
In 1976 he held a partnership with 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 chairman of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation and served as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1974 to 1976.
Mr Walker is survived by his wife Barbara, three children and three grandchildren.