Arnold Palmer, who died aged 87 in hospital in Pittsburgh while awaiting cardiac surgery, wasn't only a legendary golfer who brought the sport to the masses. He was also a savvy business man who paved the way for a generation of younger sport stars to parlay athletic success into enduringly lucrative careers.

Palmer was the first client of lawyer-turned-sports marketing guru Mark McCormack, whose IMG Group sporting agency now belongs to William Morris Endeavor and private equity firm Silver Lake.

Both shrugged off the monikers of co-founding fathers of the modern sports marketing industry, though a string of endorsements and product launches turned the golfer into a lifestyle brand during his golfing heyday in the 1950s and early 1960s and well beyond.

Jeff Sine, co-founder of TMT, sports and entertainment-focused investment bank Raine Group said: "Arnold Palmer established what has become the gold standard in the sports industry. Arnie's Army was a movement that brought golf to both the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers. With his friend and agent, Mark McCormack he translated his celebrity into a vast network of business and licencing interests. Through it all, he remained the trusted and beloved family man from Latrobe PA who will never be forgotten."

Indeed, decades after his professional peak, and ten years after his retirement in 2006, Palmer's bankability continued

Forbes earlier the year found Palmer was third on its list of the highest paid retired athletes, behind Michael Jordon and David Beckham, with annual earnings of $40 million, which topped fellow golfers Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman. The publication noted that Palmer made $1.8 million in winnings during his PGA career but earned 22 times that in 2015 thanks to his business interests.

At the heart of his business empire was Arnold Palmer Enterprises, which manages a string of licensing arrangements with companies including Callaway Golf and Textron -owned (TXT) - Get Report jets maker Cessna, Rolex and Diageo-backed (DEO) - Get Report premium vodka Ketel One.

Palmer in 1995 founded the Golf Channel alongside cable entrepreneur Joe Gibbs as the first single-sport cable network in the U.S. Now owned by NBC Universal the network is available in more than 200 million homes in 84 countries and 11 languages around the world.

Other business interests include The Bay Hill Club & Lodge, a 64-room, 270-acre resort near Orlando which houses the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy as well as its own marina; the Latrobe Country Club. located in the city of his birth, where Palmer's father, Deacon, was the ground's superintendent; Arnold Palmer's Restaurant in La Quinta, Calif.; motor distributor Arnold PalmerMotors; Arnold Palmer Golf Tournament Services and Arnold Palmer Design Co., which has designed more than 300 golf courses around the world.

Globally popular, Palmer and the multi-panel umbrella symbol are instantly recognizable across much of Asia, a market he entered in 1971 through an alliance in Japan with apparel group Renown.

He even gave his name to a drink, a mix of lemonade and iced tea.

Palmer was also a philanthropist , with his endeavors resulting in the foundation in Orlando of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, named after his late wife. His Arnie's Army Charitable Foundation has supported a myriad of sporting projects aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles among children and young people, and he also raised vast sums for cancer charities, having lost Winnie to ovarian cancer and survived prostrate cancer himself in the 1990s.

Palmer is survived by two children, Peggy Palmer Wears and Amy Palmer Saunders, six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He is also survived by his second wife Kathleen "Kit" Gawthrop, who  has three children and great grandchildren.