LONDON (AP) _ Lord Rippon of Hexham, architect of Britain's entry to the European Union and a business leader, has died, his company said Wednesday. He was 72.

Rippon died Tuesday at his home in Bridgwater in southwest England, the pharmaceutical giant UniChem said in a statement. It did not specify the cause of death.

Trained in law at Oxford University, Geoffrey Rippon soon turned to politics. After his election to Parliament in 1955, he served in the Conservative governments of Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Edward Heath.

As a minister, his posts included defense, technology and housing.

It was as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Heath's Cabinet from 1970-1972 that he negotiated favorable terms for Britain's entry into what was then the European Economic Community.

A passionate pro-European who became known as ``Mr. Europe,'' he then piloted the necessary legislation, known as the European Communities Act, through the House of Commons. Heath later made him environment secretary, where he gave the go-ahead for construct of the Channel Tunnel between England and France.

On Wednesday, Heath gave Rippon full credit for the successful negotiations on Britain's entry into Europe.

``His ability to influence not only members of both houses of Parliament but also the press and the public was of immense value,'' Heath said.

He was made a life peer in the unelected House of Lords in 1987.

In 1990, Rippon became a chairman of UniChem and oversaw its transfer to a public company that year. He presided over the company's rapid expansion in Britain and Europe.

Rippon is survived by his wife, Ann, a son and three daughters. Funeral details were not immediately available.