Richard Oland, a member of one of the best-known families in Atlantic Canada, has died under suspicious circumstances, according to police.

Oland was 69 years old.

Saint John police spent much of Thursday near his Canterbury Street office in downtown Saint John, where his body was found about 9:30 a.m.

"It's a real shame," said Don Cullinan, who works in the law office next door to Oland's business, Far End Corporation.

"I saw him just about every day and said 'hello' to him," Cullinan said. "He seemed like a very, very pleasant fellow."

Cullinan told CBC News police were in and out of Oland's second-storey office all day Thursday.

Police removed Oland's body at about 2:30 p.m. and towed his BMW from the parking lot, at the corner of Canterbury and Princess streets. They also searched the area with sniffer dogs.

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Richard Oland was a businessman, world-class sailor and a driving force behind the 1985 Canada Games in Saint John.

Staff Sgt. Mike King said the major crime unit and a number of patrol officers were involved.

But he wouldn't comment on how long the body had been there, how Oland died, or whether any weapons were involved.

An autopsy is expected to be performed Friday.

Oland is survived by his wife and three children.

Oland's family has owned Moosehead Brewery since Confederation, but he left that company in the 1980s. His brother Derek now runs the brewery.

Oland became a competitive sailor, who participated in races around the world.

Last year, he won the International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas.

He was instrumental in helping Saint John get the 1985 Canada Games. He was also involved in finding a new home for the New Brunswick Museum in downtown Saint John.

One of Oland's friends described him as a "great salesperson" for Saint John.

Steve Carson, the chief executive officer of Enterprise Saint John and a family friend, described Oland as a tireless promoter for the city.

"Dick had a really in-depth knowledge of manufacturing, of logistics and transportation and technology. So it didn't matter what type of business someone was involved in," Carson said.

"He was very passionate and very intense and he had a really phenomenal way of connecting with people. So that combination of knowledge of the community and his passion for business was something that was very genuine and he was a great salesperson for the community."