Dragons’ Den star Hilary Devey has died aged 65 after battling a ‘long illness’, her publicist confirmed today.
The Bolton-born multi-millionaire entrepreneur passed away at her holiday home in Morroco on Saturday night.
She joined BBC Two programme Dragons’ Den in 2011 and left in 2012, going on to present Channel 4’s The Intern.
Hilary, who was married three times, became a popular figure after demonstrating her matter-of-fact approach and was usually seen donning shoulder-padded businesswear.
In 2013 she was made a CBE, honoured for a career in business and for her charitable work.
She founded the multimillion-pound freight distribution business Pall-Ex, after selling her home and car in the 1990s to finance it.
Her charity work included her position as vice president of the Carers Trust and she was also a patron of the Stroke Association, having herself suffered a stroke in 2009. She also appeared in The Business Inspector on Channel 5.
Hilary was married to Ed Devey, Malcolm Sharples from 1976 to 1978 and Philip Childs from 2011 to 2013, and has one son, Mevlit Brewster-Ahmet, who is 35.
Mevlit’s father was Hilary’s long-term partner, a Turkish businessman called Hussein, who could not wed Devey as he was already married to another woman with five children.
This tale mirrored that of her mother’s – in October 2012, Devey shared a story on BBC Radio 4 where she explained that her mother discovered, years into her relationship with Hilary’s father, already had a wife and four children.
Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis this afternoon paid tribute to the businesswoman tweeting: ‘So sad to hear of the passing of the lovely Hilary Devey. She left us all with some fantastic memories, may she rest in peace. My thoughts are with her family. x’
Fellow Dragon Duncan Bannatyne wrote on Twitter: ‘So sad to hear of the passing of the lovely Hilary Devey.
‘She left us all with some fantastic memories, may she rest in peace. My thoughts are with her family. x’
Dragons’ Den presenter Evan Davis tweeted: ‘So sorry to hear of Hilary Devey’s passing.
‘I didn’t know her well, but she really brought a wonderful grit to the Den; it was quite different to anything we’d encountered and audiences loved it. She’ll be long remembered.’
Nikki Hesford who entered the Den in 2011 said: “When I walked into the Den nervous as hell, barely able to remember my own name, all the dragons had this dead pan expression, giving nothing away, (no criticism, I get that they’re supposed to do that) except Hilary….. she was smiling as if to say “Go on lass, you’ve got this!” “
In 2014, Ms Devey revealed her ongoing health problems since suffering a stroke five years prior, which caused her to ‘lose a third of her brain’.
During an appearance on ITV’s This Morning, she said it took her six months to ‘come to terms with it’ and she had ‘no energy to do anything’.
She said: ‘There is so much now that I can’t do. I remember coming home from the hospital and getting into the bathroom – and I thought what do I do now, I didn’t even know to turn the shower on.
‘It has taken away a lot of my life – I can’t drive anymore because it has affected my vision, I have no sensation of touch, and I have a weak left leg… but I can still walk so I’m very grateful.’
It is not known if the health issues she encountered following her stroke in 2009 was a cause behind her death.
Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: ‘We are sad to hear that Hilary Devey has died after a long illness.
‘Hilary was keen that all stroke survivors received the help and support they need to rebuild their lives after stroke. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.’
BBC Radio presenter Greg James described Devey as ‘an absolute inspiration’ for women. He tweeted: ‘I’m so sad to hear the news about Hilary.
‘An absolute inspiration for woman in particular who wanted to make their mark in male dominated industries, like she did in haulage.
‘She was also SO MUCH FUN. And an absolute fashion icon.’
Hannah Wyatt, managing director of factual entertainment and events at BBC Studios, said: ‘Hilary Devey will always hold a unique place in the hearts of Dragons’ Den viewers and the programme team.
‘We are all extremely saddened by her loss and our thoughts at this time are with her family and friends.’
Kate Phillips, director of BBC unscripted content, added: ‘When Hilary entered the Den in 2011 she was formidable, fiery and completely unforgettable.
‘A tough-talking Dragon who never minced her words, she also always saw the person behind the product, and was such an encouraging mentor and investor to so many entrepreneurs.
‘A hugely successful businesswoman and television expert, she will be missed by all who knew her and benefited from her wise words and experience.’
Her charity work included her position as vice president of the Carers Trust and she was also a patron of the Stroke Association.
Describing being made a CBE for services to the transport industry and to charity, she said at the time: ‘In every sense of the word, this is a great honour and I am equally flattered and flabbergasted.
‘It is wonderful to receive such recognition, but this should be less about me, and more about the charities that I support and the amazing transport sector in which I am privileged to work.
‘So I dedicate my honour to the Carers Trust, the Stroke Association, and Fresh Start – New Beginnings, and the other charities that I have tried to support, as well as to the lorry drivers, forklift truck drivers and everyone else who works in the logistics sector: the unsung heroes of British industry.’
She has appeared on various other TV shows, including Secret Millionaire in 2008 when she donated £70,000 to Back Door Music Project and the Syke Community Centre in Rochdale.
The 65-year-old had an estimated net worth of over £80million, and made her fortune by launching palletised freight network Pall-Ex, having launched it in 1996. She sold her home and car earlier in the 1990s to finance it.
She joined Dragons’ Den in February 2011 following James Caan’s departure from the show. Devey left the series in June 2012 to move to Channel 4 to host The Intern, a business documentary where three young interns try a week in their dream jobs.
Devey later said her best investment had been a mattress-cross-duvet duvet for caravans, boats and trucks.
In 2015, she claimed the show paid its dragons ‘pittance’ of £1,250 a day and complained that it was not enough to cover her expenses while working on the programme.
Working out at £15,000 for 12 episodes, which took 14 to 15 hours a day to film, she said that the only way to make money was through the investment opportunities the show offered.
But despite her complaints, the entrepreneur admitted she would consider returning to the show if asked.
She said she hoped to extend her investment portfolio – but added it would depend on who the other dragons were.