Former Geelong AFL president Costa dies

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Long-time Geelong president and philanthropist Frank Costa, the only person to have been named a legend of the AFL club without ever playing for the Cats, has died after a year-long battle with illness. He was aged 83.

Costa died 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.

"Frank was a legend as a person, and a legend of the club," Cook said in a statement.

"He forged so many strong and lasting relationships through his warmth and authenticity.

"He will be missed by all that have been fortunate enough to know and love him."

Costa is survived by his wife of 61 years Shirley and eight daughters.

"Our thoughts are with Shirley, and the entire Costa family," Cook said.

"Frank took on one of the toughest roles in football as our president at a time when the very future of the Geelong football club was in the balance.

"The club was on a financial precipice, playing in a crumbling venue and had not tasted premiership success in 36 years.

"When Frank departed as president at the end of 2010 he left the club with state-of-the-art facilities, a record-breaking team that had broken a premiership drought in 2007 and added another flag in 2009, and on a financial footing that set the club up for long-term stability."

Costa was made aware of his impending induction as the club's 26th official legend in the past week.

"Without Frank, there must be a genuine question as to whether or not the Geelong football club would exist today," said Cook.

"It is highly doubtful it would exist in its current form without having had Frank at the helm."

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.

"Frank Costa had the strongest of values around service, loyalty, hard work and dedication, which he applied to every part of his life," said AFL chairman Richard Goyder.

"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."