Iceland’s former financial director Bernard Leigh has died, aged 68.

Leigh, who died suddenly on 14 February, was described as a “major force” by the retailer, where he worked for more than 20 years.

Having joined Iceland in 1976, Leigh played a pivotal role in the retailer’s float in 1984 and its acquisition of Bejam in 1988. He was group finance director until March 1998 when Andrew Pritchard took over. Leigh then took up the position of deputy chairman for just over a year before retiring in June 1999.

Iceland boss Malcolm Walker paid tribute to Leigh. “Bernie joined Peter Hinchcliffe and me at our old head office in Rhyl in 1976,” he said. “We thought we had achieved a great coup in poaching him from our accountants to professionalise our systems.

“He always kept us on the straight and narrow and played a major role in the growth of the business, presenting our twice-yearly results to the City and press when we were a public company.”

Former retail analyst David Stoddard, now head of IR at Bankside Communications, added: “Bernard was always a pleasure to deal with and a real gentleman.”