Prime Minister John Key has honoured businessman Lloyd Morrison as a passionate New Zealand who "threw everything he had" at life.

Morrison, Infratil founder, Wellington identity and a national flag campaigner, died in Seattle this morning after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 54.

Key said he had met news of Morrison's death with great sadness.

"Lloyd was a very successful businessman and, as a friend, I can say that he was also known for not being afraid to voice strong opinions - but he did this because he was totally passionate about New Zealand.


"He led the campaign to change the flag, was a strong supporter of the arts, and will be remembered for his part in saving the Phoenix.

"Lloyd threw everything he had at his illness, as he threw everything he had at his life.

Labour Party deputy leader and Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said Morrison's passing was a significant loss to the city and the country.

"Above all things, Lloyd was a passionate Wellingtonian who had a desire to see his city, region and country prosper," Robertson said.

"His contribution to and investment in New Zealand's infrastructure and economic development was massive."

Robertson said Morrison had an "enormous pride and faith in New Zealand".

"Lloyd will be greatly missed."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown described Morrison as a passionate Wellingtonian and made valued contribution to the city.

"Lloyd was a really warm and intelligent Wellingtonian. I found him always willing to explore ideas," Wade-Brown said. "He was passionate about the good of the city and forthright about his views.

"He didn't wait for public opinion but led from the front in expressing his vision, for issues such as the New Zealand flag and for world-beating architecture like Wellington Airport's The Rock terminal.

She said Morrison's life must be celebrated.

"Lloyd fitted more into his sadly short life than most people and made a valuable contribution to Wellington.

"He showed that you can have a really positive family life, be a very successful business person and make a difference for the public good of the city. Many people are recognised in one of these spheres but Lloyd was a true all-rounder."

Morrison and six other Wellington business people took over the Phoenix Football Club licence after former owner Terry Serepisos was forced to give up control last year.

"Lloyd Morrison, co-owner of the Wellington Phoenix died last night after a long battle with cancer. He was 52. He will missed," Wellington Phoenix wrote on the club's Twitter account.

His brother Rob, who heads the Welnix consortium that holds the licence, said everyone in the consortium respected what he wanted to do for Wellington and the Phoenix.

"It didn't matter what Lloyd did, he always gave of his best," Rob Morrison said.

"He set high standards for himself and expected others to do the same.

"Once he got involved in the Phoenix he became very passionate about the club."

His brother said Morrison's passion for the club was epitomised by a Phoenix shirt hanging on the wall in his Seattle hospital room.

A moment's silence will be held at this Sunday's game against the Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium, and the players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect.

Morrison was as well known for his support for public causes, including changing the national flag, pursuing a clean-tech future for the New Zealand economy and his part in rescuing the Wellington Phoenix football franchise as he was for establishing the NZX-listed specialist infrastructure owner Infratil.

At the time of his death, he was still a director of Infratil, which he founded in 1988, but had handed over the chief executive's role to former senior Telecom manager Marko Bogoievski.

In a statement to the NZX, chairman David Newman described him as a "truly passionate New Zealander."

The staunchly loyal Wellingtonian, whose business empire stretched to regional airports in the UK and Europe, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia three years ago.

Under his leadership, Infratil became a Top 50 stock on the NZX, with assets including stakes in Z Energy, Wellington's airport and bus company, TrustPower, and an energy portfolio in Australia.

Morrison was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009, the year he was diagnosed with leukaemia.