Dragons’ Den star Hilary Devey has died at the age of 65.
The death of the entrepreneur was confirmed by her agent, who said Devey died in Morocco after battling a long illness.
A spokesperson said she had been staying at her holiday home in the country, and she passed away on Saturday night (11 June). They told The Mirror: “I can confirm that Hilary sadly died yesterday. She had been ill for some time.”
Bolton-born Devey was best known for her no-nonsense approach on the panel of the BBC Two programme Dragons’ Den. She joined in 2011 following the departure of James Caan.
Fellow “Dragon” Theo Paphitis was among the celebrities paying tribute to Devey, writing 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.”
Deborah Meaden, another fellow “Dragon”, said she was “very sad” to hear of Devey’s death. “She was unique in every way and brought grit and warmth with her into the den. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones. RIP Hilary. truly one of a kind,” the businesswoman said.
And former Dragons’ Den co-star Duncan Bannatyne tweeted: “Sad to hear that Hilary Devey has passed. So young. Too young. Rest in Peace Hilary.”
Another tribute came from BBC Radio 1 Breakfast presenter Greg James, who said: “I’m so sad to hear the news about Hilary. An absolute inspiration for women in particular who wanted to make their mark in male-dominated industries, like she did in haulage. She was also so much fun.”
Being a woman in business was something Devey was vocal about. In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Devey talked about being a woman in the macho trucker industry, saying that women have a harder time than men when they are trying to kick-start an enterprise. “A man wouldn’t have driven in their pyjamas and coat in the middle of the night [to build their business], as I did,” she told the publication.
After leaving Dragons’ Den, Devey hosted the Channel 4 show The Intern, a business series in which she gave three young interns a week’s trial in the job of their dreams.
Devey also hosted another Channel 4 show, Running the Shop, and appeared as a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women.
Before her career in TV, Devey made her fortune in the freight haulage business, launching her own company Pall-Ex in 1996. The company grew internationally to achieve a turnover of £100m.
In 2009, Devey became the first woman to win the prestigious Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s Sir Robert Lawrence award.
Devey was made an OBE in 2013 for services to the transport industry and to charity.
On the show Secret Millionaire, she donated more than £70,000 to the Back Door Music Project and the Syke Community Centre in Rochdale.
She also campaigned for several charities over the years, including serving as vice-president of The Carers Trust, and being a patron for the Stroke Association and Fresh Start – New Beginnings.
She married twice and leaves behind a son, Mevlit Brewster-Ahmet, who is 35.