Fil Filipov: 1946-2022
By Murray Pollok30 August 2022
It is with enormous regret that we report the death of Fil Filipov, one of the most remarkable entrepreneurs of the construction equipment business over the last 50 years.
Filipov, who lost a short battle with cancer at the age of 75, was a unique figure in the industry, involved with many of the famous names in manufacturing – among them Case, International Harvester, Terex, Koehring, Demag, Shaeff, Atlas. He was famous both for his appetite for acquisitions and his uncompromising approach to company turnarounds, exemplified by his ‘First 100 days’ approach to struggling businesses.
His Filosophies website – named after the autobiography he published in 2000 – lists 24 companies in whose acquisition he played a part.
His background immediately made him different from the standard OEM executive. Born in Bulgaria in 1946, he escaped from the communist country at the age of 17. After a period in a Greek refugee camp he emigrated to the USA. His first job, in 1966, was in Chicago as an hourly worker at International Harvester.
Before long his management and leadership qualities – coupled with personal charm – led to a series of increasingly senior positions.
By the early 90s he was vice president, construction equipment Europe at J.I. Case, and then he joined Terex Cranes in 1993, where he stayed for 10 years, leaving as chief executive and succeeded by his son, Steve.
His success in turning round troubled companies was based on an approach that he himself described as “unconventional and often unpopular”. Even later in his career, on leaving Terex, he embarked on some serious new ventures, restructuring Tatra trucks in the Czech Republic, buying German manufacturer Atlas Maschinenbau in 2010 and, in 2017, buying the French forging business TIM S.A.
His dealings with the press were courteous and good humoured. This correspondent remembers being given sage career advice at a Simon event in Ireland – probably a shortened version of the 100 day turnaround – and being perpetually teased about the identity of his next acquisition. He understood the value of good PR; his relationships with publishers was warm.
He never forgot his connections to Bulgaria. In April 2019 he visited the Bulgarian Industrial Association, which reported his visit as the “most exciting in the history of the organisation…We believe that people like Fil Filipov are a gift from fate and that through their deeds, they will always live in our hearts.”
The association added that Filipov had been a major donor to the Bulgarian community; “One of the great causes he supported until the end was the Bulgarian church St. Sofia in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.” He had also participated recently the delegation that represented the Bulgarian community in the USA to the Illinois Congress.
He is survived by his son Steve – who has also enjoyed a successful career in the construction equipment business – and by his wife of 35 years, Véronique.
Filipov’s family announced his passing on his website: “He fought a very aggressive cancer for two months and lost the battle. Fil lived a full life along with Véronique, his wife for 35 years, 24/7, and had many projects, but ‘Nishto Ne E Vechno’ (Nothing is forever).”
It was his wish to have a private burial with very limited attendees. A 20-minute ceremony at Fort Lauderdale was streamed on Tuesday 30 August and can be viewed at www.filosophies.com/
Additional tributes to his life will be held in Chicago, Ganderkesee (Germany) and Strelcha (Bulgaria).
KHL Group and its staff send their condolences to Fil’s family and friends.