Former banking boss and prominent business leader Sir John Anderson has died of health complications at the age of 73.

The former ANZ National Bank chief executive passed away in his sleep in his Wellington home last night.

He served as the chief executive and director of Southpac - positions which he retained in subsequent mergers with the National Bank in 1989 and the ANZ in 2003, before retiring in 2005.

He was also on the board of NZX-listed NZME before stepping down in December last year.

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Anderson led the news organisation through its demerger with APN News & Media.

Michael Boggs, NZME chief executive, paid tribute to Anderson following news of his passing.

"I was lucky enough to work with Sir John Anderson as NZME's Chairman, his calm demeanour and business experience emanated through every interaction. He was known for his leadership skills and passion for developing talent - I feel privileged to have worked with him," Boggs said.

ANZ Bank New Zealand also paid tribute to their former CEO, Anderson.

"Sir John Anderson had a long and successful career in New Zealand business, including being CEO of Southpac, The National Bank and ANZ National Bank.

"When ANZ bought The National Bank off Lloyds TSB in 2003 Sir John was that well respected he was asked to stay on and run the two banks.

"Sir John's love of sport, particularly cricket, was legendary in the bank. We have him to thank for the bank's long time and successful association with and sponsorship of New Zealand Cricket.

"I never worked with him but many staff still talk fondly of Sir John. They say he was compassionate, a good listener, had a sharp analytical mind and was decisive," ANZ New Zealand CEO David Hisco said.

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"He always talked about looking after the customer because if that was achieved the business couldn't help but be successful. That's a great legacy to leave future generations of leaders in our company and across New Zealand business."

Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden said the scheme owes much to the wisdom and vision of Anderson.

"We are very saddened to hear about the passing of Sir John Anderson," said Sladden.

"The scheme owes much to the wisdom and vision of Sir John. He was a driving force in establishing the Banking Ombudsman Scheme 26 years ago.

"He worked with consumer champions like David Russell to establish the scheme as a free and independent place for banking customers to bring their complaints. This was well before it was a government requirement for banks to belong to such a scheme."

Anderson was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to business management, banking and the community in the 1995 New Year Honours.

Chapman Tripp consultant Barry Brown once said of Anderson: "There is deep affection for Sir John and deep admiration for the contribution he has made to New Zealand business generally and the wider financial community in particular. He is a true icon."

"He is not man to wear his heart on his sleeve. He is quite private. But we all know that deep down he has a great sense of pride in New Zealand and its people."

While chief executive of the National Bank, Anderson came through the 1987 crash in better health than others.

"He is not afraid to go against the market trend," Brown said.

Anderson was also appointed chairman of New Zealand Cricket in 1995.

He was born in Wellington and went to Christ's College and Victoria University of Wellington.