Flame on: New Dragon joins the Den

Hilary Devey, the founder of Pall-Ex, is to join the next series of Dragons' Den. Will she have the necessary fire?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 19 Mar 2013
The 53-year-old will replace former Dragon James Caan, who quit his role on the show last month to concentrate on ‘work and philanthropic interests’. Or, as we’re just as ready to imagine, to work full-time on promoting his new book with an incessant stream of press releases informing us how he knows a lot about a lot of things.

Devey launched her own business Pall-Ex in 1996, a pallet distribution company which has she has turned into a multi-million pound pan-European powerhouse. She certainly seems to have the right credentials for the investment pitching show: after being rejected by banks to back her business, Devey sold her house and car to find the £112k needed to fund it herself.

From little acorns, as they say. Pall-Ex’s Leicestershire HQ now receives as many as 17,000 pallets of goods a day, and uses a 350-strong fleet of trucks to distribute them round the country to clients including Asda supermarkets, making major savings in the efficiency of how the whole process runs.

All pretty unglamorous, perhaps, but the figures speak for themselves: Pall-Ex pulls in sales of more than £100m. And such Bolton-born nuts-and-bolts grittiness will work well as she adds her business nous – and her rather severe line in haircuts - to the remaining Dragon line-up: Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, Duncan Bannatyne and Deborah Meaden. Good to see the panel featuring more than one woman for the first time too. Let’s see whether that makes them more empathetic towards the contestants' goals.

Devey is one of those people who’s frequently referred to as ‘larger than life’. She’s certainly been there and done it: as well as starting her business at the age of 40, she’s had a stroke that left her arm paralysed, and has a son who had a drug problem. And she’s been on TV plenty before - on Secret Millionnaire and The Business Inspector, where she helped struggling British businesses by injecting business sense into their projects. Let’s see if she’s just as generous in the Den...

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