Wim Duisenberg, 70, the former European Central Bank chief who helped create the euro currency, was found dead July 31 in the swimming pool at his home in southeastern France, officials said.
An autopsy determined that Dr. Duisenberg drowned after an unspecified cardiac problem, a regional prosecutor said. He was found unconscious in the pool in Faucon and could not be revived, police said.
Dr. Duisenberg was the first leader of the European bank, serving from 1998 to 2003. Having shepherded the euro through its introduction in 2002, he became known as the father of the currency of the 12-nation European Union.
Tall and stoop-shouldered, with a white mane, Dr. Duisenberg sometimes appeared more like a professor than a heavyweight policymaker. He kept a low profile as bank chief but was a major influence, bearing overall responsibility for price stability in the euro zone, which included more than 300 million people.
During his tenure at the bank, Dr. Duisenberg was known for his cautious monetary policy and for defending the euro through its early years. He sometimes frustrated investors and politicians by sticking to the bank's inflation-fighting stance, keeping rates higher than some would have liked.
"I hear, but I don't listen" to such pleas, was one of his typically blunt responses. Dr. Duisenberg repeatedly said it was up to European governments to pursue structural changes such as loosening rigid rules on hiring and firing personnel if they wanted more growth.
The bank's tight policy helped keep the euro a strong, stable currency even as it was criticized as a drag on growth.
One of Dr. Duisenberg's biggest achievements was the smooth introduction of euro notes and coins in early 2002. Twelve national currencies were removed from circulation by banks and shops and replaced with the new money in a huge logistical effort that defied predictions of long lines and consumer confusion.
Dr. Duisenberg, who unabashedly sought to model the European bank on the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, at times was referred to as "Europe's Greenspan" -- a reference to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Willem Frederik Duisenberg was born July 9, 1935, in Heerenven, Netherlands. He became a member of the Dutch Labor Party and received a doctorate in economics from Groningen University. He wrote his dissertation on the economic consequences of disarmament.
He also served as finance minister and central bank chief in the Netherlands and once ran the European Monetary Institute -- a European bank predecessor -- in Frankfurt, Germany.
Survivors include his wife, Gretta Duisenberg-Bedier de Prairie; and two sons.