A Highgate businessman who helped transform a small London travel agency into a billion-dollar enterprise has died of a heart attack in Milan, Italy.

But 63-year-old Sanjiv Talwar, who lived with his family in Shepherds Hill in Highgate, is remembered as much for his tennis playing skills as he is for his business acumen.

At the North London tennis club where he was a member for many years, he was the heart, soul and organising spirit of regular Monday night tennis sessions when he matched players with available courts.

More often than not the fiercely competitive tennis fixtures were followed by a "reconciliation" dinner at a nearby curry restaurant.

Friend and local gynaecologist Nick Morris described Mr Talwar as “a kind and gentle person, great, with such tenacity he was able to ensure that 20 middle aged men met for tennis every Monday”.

Finchley-based Dr Morris adds: “No one was late, ever, and everyone felt it was a privilege to take part.”

In business circles Talwar is most remembered for his success in adapting the technology of the IT industry to the needs of the travelling public.

In 1999 he was managing director of Ebookers that was generating a comparatively modest US $22 million in sales. By the time the company was sold five years later in 2005 sales were booming close to a billion dollars annually.

More recently Talwar was engaged in a number of projects, including working as a financial risk analyst for Soft Bank.

%image(15145894, type="article-full", alt="Sanjiv Talwar is fondly remembered by friends and family, with friend and local gynaecologist Nick Morris describing him as “a kind and gentle person"")

Ebookers founder and Lib Dem politician Dinesh Dhamija said: “He was an excellent guy and started the business with me. When we started the business, we shared a desk with him on one side and me on the other. He did the first business plan and we developed it together.

“In 1999 our sales were US$ 22 million. When we sold up in 2005, the sales were a billion dollars.”

Mr Dhamija said Talwar’s health started to deteriorate while he was at the company. Shortly afterwards he had a pacemaker fitted.

“I thought he would survive as it's manageable, but didn’t know how far it reached,” said Mr Dhamija.

Talwar was born in 1958 in the Indian city of Ropar. He first came to the UK in 1978 where he qualified as a chartered accountant.

He leaves behind a wife, Vandana, and two children, Dhananjay and Anahita. Both son and daughter are graduates of Cambridge.