Philanthropist and business leader Eion Edgar has died aged 76 after a bout with pancreatic cancer.

The Queenstown resident received an honour in 1996 for his services to business management and the community and this was upgraded to a distinguished companion of the New Zealand order of merit in 2003 for his services to education, business, and sport. In 2009, that honour was redesignated to a knight grand companion.

Edgar chaired investment firm Forsyth Barr from 1998 to 2018, having joined the firm in 1972 and been managing director through the 1990s. He also chaired the NZX, was chancellor at Otago University and was president of the NZ Olympic Committee.

“Eion had so many achievements during his life. He was committed to so many causes and was involved with countless organisations too numerous to mention and do justice to here,” Forsyth Barr said in a statement.

“New Zealand has lost a truly iconic and visionary leader. Forsyth Barr is fortunate that, despite all of his activities, the firm was always close to his heart.”

Sport and recreation minister Grant Robertson paid tribute to Edgar, saying he left behind a tremendous legacy.

“The range of philanthropic causes that Sir Eion and Jan, Lady Edgar have supported both inside and outside the sport sector is nothing short of extraordinary,” Robertson said.

“These projects and initiatives have left a huge imprint on sport in New Zealand.”

Tourism minister Stuart Nash paid tribute to Edgar’s contribution to the Central Otago community when opening the Lake Dunstan cycle trail in May, saying he was humbled to present a commemorative plaque to Edgar because he thought he was an “absolute legend”. 

“I don’t want to embarrass you, but I think most of us are aware of the amazing contributions you and Jan have made over the years,” Nash said. 

The minister – who’d never met Edgar before that day – hit the mark: “I’m all a bit bloody embarrassed. I’m a bit overcome. No one told me these extra bits were happening,” Edgar said.

NZX chief executive Mark Peterson said Edgar took an interest in the sharemarket from an early age and went on to play a "truly outstanding role in the development and evolution of New Zealand’s Exchange".

“He was an absolute giant and champion of the New Zealand sharemarket over the past 50 years – both through his leadership at Forsyth Barr, as a director and chairman of the exchange, and working for the wider good of our country.”

NZX chair James Miller said the NZX would be incorporating a tribute to Edgar in The New Zealand Capital Markets Centre due to open as the company’s new Auckland office in August 2021.

This article has been updated.