TRIBUTES have been paid to the “great man” who founded luxury boat-builder Sunseeker International and brought hundreds of jobs to Portland.

Robert Braithwaite, who has died aged 75, has been called a “gentleman” and a “great visionary”.

Announcing his death, Sunseeker chief executive Christian Marti said: “Robert was not only the company’s founder but the father of the ‘Sunseeker family’ here in Dorset, and worldwide through our dealers and clients. He will always live on as the driving force behind our success.”

Poole-headquartered Sunseeker expanded at Portland after buying the facilities of US-based Luhrs Marine at Osprey Quay.

Craig Oakes, president of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said: “They moved into Osprey Quay and were a great employer. A lot of people from the area work at Sunseeker.

“Sunseeker in general is a great thing for Weymouth and Portland for employment, but it all started with one great man.”

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “We’ve enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Sunseeker and Robert was a true entrepreneur and visionary, starting from humble beginnings originally importing boats and then building his first powerboat as Sunseeker, now the leading global manufacturer of luxury powerboats. He leaves an incredible legacy and we send our condolences to Robert’s family and all at Sunseeker.”

Jackie Phillipson, who knew Mr Braithwaite all her life and worked with him for 16 years as Sunseeker’s head of international PR and events, said: He was one of the most loving, gentlest people I’ve ever had in my life.”

Robert Braithwaite left school at 15 and founded Friars Cliff Marine at Christchurch in the 1960s, distributing imported boats.

Friars Cliff Marine moved to Poole and became Poole Powerboats in 1969 before moving into producing its own yachts.

Mr Braithwaite was joined in the business soon afterwards by his brother John, who became heavily involved in design.

The business was renamed Sunseeker International in 1985. Its yachts became popular across the globe and it now employs around 2,600 people at Poole and Portland.

After Sunseeker yachts appeared in four James Bond films, Mr Braithwaite was invited to make a cameo appearance in the Daniel Craig movie Quantum of Solace. He was awarded a CBE in 2007.

He stepped down from his day-to-day role at Sunseeker in 2012 but continued as president.