Forgacs loses its founder

AUSTRALIAN shipbuilding pioneer Stephen Forgacs died as one of the richest men in Newcastle when he succumbed to cancer aged 76 on Tuesday afternoon.

The Hungarian immigrant, who arrived in Australia with nothing and created an Australian shipbuilding empire, was diagnosed with cancer late last year.

Newcastle Knights and Jets owner Nathan Tinkler was the richest man in the Hunter before moving to Singapore but the majority of his assets were underground, unlike the Forgacs empire.

Group general manager Tony Lobb and the board of directors had been steering the Forgacs Engineering ship while Mr Forgacs battled the disease and Mr Lobb plans to stay with the company under the new structure.

Mr Forgacs is survived by his children Pamela Farragher, Elizabeth Burgess and Stephen Forgacs jnr, their mother Gizelle Forgacs and six grandchildren.

The three children were added as company directors at the start of the year and will have a greater influence on the direction of the company.

‘‘The current Forgacs Engineering operational management and staffing structure will remain unchanged,’’ a company statement said.

‘‘As per Stephen’s wishes, the company is taking a business as usual approach, driving forward to continue the significant growth Forgacs has had in recent years.’’

Forgacs has about 900 employees in the Hunter and more than 1250 across its seven operations in Sydney, Tomago, Hexham, Brisbane and Gladstone and two divisions at Carrington.

The company is responsible for some of the largest projects ever undertaken by the Australian Defence Force including the current Air Warfare Destroyer contract.

Having started as a machinist at the BHP, Mr Forgacs bought the Newcastle floating dock in 1987 and NSW State Dockyard known as Carrington Slipways from the federal government in 1997.

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