Friday, June 3, 2011

Timber tycoon Popescu's rags to riches story

Alex Popescu with Cats boss Frank Costa.

Alex Popescu with Cats boss Frank Costa.

ALEX Popescu embodies the rags to riches tale. A Romanian immigrant in 1948, Mr Popescu came to Australia to escape war-torn Europe.

Living in a caravan in Geelong, he worked for International Harvester to help pay the bills.

Before long he had taken advantage of the post-war building boom as a fence post splitter.

In his spare time, he would watch the football and learn everything he possibly could about his adopted country's national sport.

"When he came here he didn't know a thing about football," long-time friend Russell Pink said.

"He started supporting Geelong and contributed to the club any way he could."

With his timber empire growing, Mr Popescu started to sponsor game day awards in the 1960s, offering the best player on the ground a handsome 15 reward.

Current Cats coach Mark Thompson said Mr Popescu's generosity continued throughout the decades.

"He was always there for them, through the 60s, the 70s and the 80s until now," Thompson said.

"He idolised the players and his support for the club was great."

Cats president Frank Costa said when the club was struggling financially through the 80s and 90s, Mr Popescu was more than happy to help.

"He never wanted recognition for what he did but you could ask him for help and he would never say no," Costa said. "He knew how important the club was to the town and he knew it would devastate the town if it lost the club."

His love for his football club was only surpassed by the love of his family, and matched by the love of his business, Belmont Timber.

"He was a highly regarded identity in the building materials industry in Australia," long-time timber competitor and friend Barry Fagg, of Fagg's Mitre 10, said.

"Belmont Timber is a unique business that is immaculately presented and I am pleased to say I have been a customer, a supplier and a competitor to Alex Popescu for almost 50 years."


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