Elite Models founder John Casablancas has died age 70.

The founder of the world-famous modelling agency, who was responsible for launching the careers of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford, passed away in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday (20.07.13) after losing his battle with cancer.

Stefania Valenti, chief executive officer of Elite World, told WWD: ''Elite World and The Society Management [a division of Elite World] are deeply saddened [by] Mr. John Casablancas' passing.

''As a man of extraordinary talent, Mr Casablancas was instrumental in formulating the global success of the Elite brand. His vision changed the model management concept, driving the careers of iconic top models.''

The agency originated in Paris in 1972 before finding global success, which was largely due to John's vision for its future.

In 1999 John sold his stake in Elite after executives at the company were exposed for boasting about drug use and sexual relations with the models under their care.

He leaves behind his wife of 20 years, Aline Wermelinger and their three children John, Fernando Augusta and Nina, as well as his children from a previous marriage, Cecile and Julian.