Business leaders yesterday paid tribute to Roger Dickens, the hugely respected Birmingham entrepreneur who helped set up medical software giant iSoft, following his death at the age of 58.
Mr Dickens and his wife, Lainey, had renewed their wedding vows on the day he died followed a long illness.
Eight years ago Mr Dickens, who was born in the Black Country, was awarded a CBE for services to West Midlands industry, and in 2004 the University of Central England in Birmingham presented him with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his many achievements.
A past president of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, and chairman and founder of Birmingham Forward, he held a number of senior positions in accountancy giant KPMG, most notably as UK deputy senior partner.
He led the management buyout and later flotation of iSoft in 2000. During his tenure as chairman of the firm, iSoft grew rapidly to become the leading supplier of information systems to the health sector.
He stepped down as chairman of iSoft on its merger with Torex in December, 2003.
However, his business career continued, and under his chairmanship the West Bromwich Building Society doubled in size.
Mr Dickens held director-ships with a number of other companies in the West Midlands, including Wolver-hampton construction firm Carillion, the National Exhibition Centre and Headlam Group.
Mike Rake, senior partner of KPMG in the UK and the firm's international chairman, was born on exactly the same day and same year as Mr Dickens.
"We are all extremely sad at his early death," he said.
"He was one of of the outstanding partners of his generation. He was part and leader of a team that was phenomenally successful in Birmingham and the West Midlands. He brought unique business insights into the firm and its operation.
"From a personal point of view Roger had an acute sense of humour, a tremendous insight into people....and a real determination to get his own way. But he was more often right than wrong."
John James, head of the Institute of Directors in the West Midlands and a former chairman and chief executive of Birmingham Forward, said Mr Dickens would leave "an irreplaceable void in the West Midlands business world".
He went on: "But above all I will miss his irreverent but warm sense of humour and his zest for living.
"He was the inspiring creator of Birmingham Forward in 1990 and its position as the voice of the largest business sector in the West Midlands is his enduring legacy."
Sir Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, said his thoughts were with Mr Dickens' wife and family.
His passing was a "tragic loss" for Birmingham, the West Midlands and the business community in general.
Sir Digby recalled that when Mr Dickens left KPMG to go into business in his own right, most significantly with iSoft, he had said he was going to "stop counting beans and start making them".
"He succeeded in doing just that," said Sir Digby.
Describing Mr Dickens as a "very generous" man who had raised considerable sums for charity, he added: "A lot of people have lost a good friend. It is a very sad day."
Mr Dickens was president of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1998. He was also a former chairman of the West Midlands Regional Group of Chambers.
The chamber's chief executive, Sue Battle, said: "Roger was one of the most important and influential business figures in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
"His approachable style masked a steely determination which made him one of the most successful business people the city has seen for years. His far-sighted leadership of the NEC Group, as its chairman, is a case in point.
"But his business acumen and commonsense approach did not end with his own interests. He devoted much of his spare time to making Birmingham and beyond a better place for people from all walks of life.
"His energy, drive and mischievous sense of humour will be sorely missed. The world will be a less vivid place without him."
Birmingham lawyer Andrew Sparrow said Mr Dickens had been "a towering figure in the business community".
He went on: "His contribution to Birmingham's business life was enormous. Roger put professional and financial services in Birmingham at the forefront of the city's ambitions. Many professional firms and the sector on the whole are stronger now as a result of that effort."
Andrew Messenger, chief executive of the West Bromwich Building Society, said: "Roger came to us in 1998 and became chairman a year later.
"He and I built up a wonderful relationship. He had such knowledge about so many things from his KPMG days. He was a fountain of knowledge and also had a wicked sense of humour.
"He could make anyone in the organisation feel ten feet tall and could keep them motivated for months with just a few words. Very few people in this world can do that.
"Roger has been a wonderful support to me and I am devastated by his death."
Tim Whiston, chief executive of iSoft, said: "Roger was one of the founding figures of iSoft- his great business acumen was key to guiding the group through it's early formative years.
"Without his drive and energy I don't think iSoft would be anything like the international business it is today. We are all deeply saddened by this news."
Simon Murphy, chief executive of Birmingham Forward, also said: "Roger was an inspiration for many people within the professional services community in Birmingham. He also was a mentor for many people. He would often give advice and encouragement to people. Mentor would be a good word for him.
"And in the business world he was one of the good guys - talk to a lot of people about Roger. They will say he was a good guy.
"One of the legacies he leaves is the ongoing lobbying, campaigning and influence that is expressed on behalf of our community by Birmingham Forward and Birmingham Future. His contribution is literally second to none. Every one is desperately going to miss him."