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BORN in Gdansk, Poland in 1934, Richard Pratt fled with his Jewish parents on the eve World War II. Arriving in Australia in 1938, the family settled in the Victorian town of Shepparton.Pratt attended Grahamvale Primary School, Shepparton and University High Schools before enrolling in a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Melbourne. Pratt's relationship with the Carlton Football Club began when he played for the club's thirds in 1951. The relationship would span nearly 60 years.Described as an honest, hard-working ruckman, Pratt soon became an on-field leader and was awarded the Morrish Medal in 1953 – the same year he won the club's best and fairest.Pratt played reserves football for the Blues in 1954 and 1955 before his interests turned to the stage. He took part in several prominent local productions including Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.It was his work in the latter production which brought him his greatest theatrical success. The show travelled to London's West End and New York's famed Broadway.So promising was Pratt's acting prowess that he was said to have been approached by screen legend Burt Lancaster to move to Hollywood to try his luck, but his acting ambitions were eventually supplanted by his duty to the family business.Visy, a small cardboard company started by his father Leon in 1945, had grown into a considerable business by the time Pratt joined as a salesman. When Leon passed away in 1969, Pratt took over the reins and took the company to even greater heights.Carlton was never far from his thoughts and he gave generously of his time and money, also employing many players at Visy. Now known as ‘the Cardboard King’, Pratt became a noted philanthropist. The Pratt Foundation donated approximately $10 million a year to various charities and the arts. He received the Officer of the Order of Australia in 1985 and the Companion of the Order of Australia in 1988.However, unhappier times were to follow, and he handed back both these awards when Visy was fined $36 million for price fixing by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Pratt's battle against criminal charges arising from the case continued until shortly before his death, when the prosecution withdrew the charges. Pratt was widely seen as the saviour of the Carlton Football Club when he agreed to become the president on February 9, 2007. His presidency lasted just 499 days, but the club will be forever indebted for his input.Pratt passed away at Raheen, his mansion in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 after a battle with prostate cancer. He leaves Jeanne, his wife of 47 years, and four children
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