David Pecaut, a Toronto visionary who made his name by co-founding one of the city's biggest arts festivals, has died.

The man who helped drive the success of the Luminato arts festival died Monday morning from colorectal cancer. He was 54.

Pecaut, who was an American by birth, was a widely respected businessman who made charity a priority and who spent his energy trying to make Toronto the most vibrant city in Canada.

He worked with the Toronto Alliance to try and revive the tourism industry in the wake of the SARS health crisis in 2003. He was the chair of the City Summit Alliance and had an active role in creating a successful mentorship and internship program with the Immigrant Employment Council.

Friends say he was most proud of his work with Luminato an annual celebration of culture.

Though he was born in Sioux City, Iowa, Pecaut embraced Toronto wholeheartedly by championing civic pride, Mayor David Miller said in a prepared statement.

"David was a rare breed of city-builder," he said. "While American by birth, his heart and passion belonged to Toronto.

"One of his numerous talents was that he always found a way to make things happen," he added. "It was impossible to say 'no' to him because he would work miracles to find common ground where, at the end of the day, the only answer was 'yes'. Toronto will miss his spirit and his leadership."

Premier Dalton McGuinty also released a public statement, saying he was "deeply saddened" by the news but grateful for his contributions to the city.

"David was a man of boundless energy and optimism, who freely gave of himself to improve the city he loved," he said.

"I will remember him for his passion for people, his courage, and his idealism. I will miss his exciting ideas and, above all, his warm friendship."

Pecaut was a graduate of Harvard University in the U.S. and the University of Sussex in England. Before he engaged himself in Toronto's civic issues, Pecaut was a successful management consultant.

Pecaut died surrounded by his family at his Toronto home. He is survived by his wife Helen Burstyn and their four daughters Lauren, Amy, Sarah and Becca.