Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has died at the age of 76, his family said in a statement.
A pivotal figure in the St James' Park club's rise during the 1990s, he was chairman for 10 years from 1997.
Shepherd eventually sold his share of the club to Mike Ashley and recently, along with brother Bruce, was granted the freedom of the city of Newcastle.
"Freddy Shepherd, former chairman of Newcastle United and chairman of Shepherd Offshore Group and Triple S Sports & Entertainment Group, sadly passed away peacefully at his home last night," his family said in a statement.
"At this difficult time the family have asked that their privacy be respected."
Born and bred in the North East, Shepherd was the owner and managing director of the Shepherd Offshore Group for more than 40 years.
He set up the Triple S group in 2008 but is best known for his influential role at Newcastle.
A director of the Magpies from 1992 until 2007, Shepherd served as vice-chairman to Sir John Hall as the club finished Premier League runners-up in both 1996 and 1997, playing a key role in signing Alan Shearer from Blackburn for a world-record £15million.
The former Newcastle striker posted on Twitter. "So sad to hear my great friend and former @NUFC chairman Freddy Shepherd has passed away. I owe him a huge debt for bringing me home."
Shepherd became Newcastle chairman in 1997 and oversaw several dalliances with the Champions League while his decision to appoint Sir Bobby Robson saw United finish as high as third in 2003.