Broadcaster Nicholas Parsons has died at the age of 96 after a short illness, his agent has confirmed.

Parsons had hosted Radio 4’s Just A Minute since its inception in 1967.

“Nicholas passed away in the early hours of the 28th of January,” said a statement issued on behalf of his family by his agent Jean Diamond.

“He was with his beloved family who will miss him enormously and who wish to thank the wonderful staff at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital.”

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “Very few people have done so much to entertain audiences over the decades, and no one deserves to be called a broadcasting legend more than Nicholas Parsons.

“His charm, inventive intellect and ability to create laughs were unsurpassed. Our thoughts are with his family and all who knew him.”

Mohit Bakaya, controller of BBC Radio 4, said: “Nicholas Parsons was one of the greats, a first class broadcaster and an icon in the world of British comedy.

“Nicholas always brought his sharp wit, brilliant poise and warmth to everything he did – but particularly as host of Just a Minute where his excellence shone in each episode without hesitation, deviation or repetition.”

Radio 4 Today presenter Nick Robinson also paid tribute on Twitter.

Broadcaster Andrew Neil added: “So sad to learn of the death of Nicholas Parsons, though at 96 it was a pretty impressive innings… A more friendly, generous, polite and solicitous person you could not hope to meet.”

Christopher Nicholas Parsons was born on 10 October 1923 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, the son of a GP.

He described himself in his autobiography as “the unconventional child of conventional parents”.

Always neatly coiffed and invariably immaculate in blazer and flannels, Parsons’ smooth tones on Just a Minute and, more particularly, his sugary image on Sale of the Century, made him a dapper reminder of a bygone age and a ripe target for other comedians.