Will New Dragon Hilary Heat Up the Den?

The new Dragon's Den

Pensive beard-stroker James Caan has left Dragons’ Den (which returns for a ninth series on Sunday from 9pm on BBC2) and been replaced with a 54-year-old freight distribution boss. Northerner Hilary Devey is only the third female dragon to sit on the panel of five multi millionaires. She arrives ready to do battle: glare set to steely and cheeks, lips and nails rouged with blood. Her voluminous shoulder pads will have you wondering whether she also owns a time travel business so she can buy her outfits in 1985. Alas, there’s no mention of this in the biographical material I trawled though, but I’d bet that anyone pitching a 80s vintage clothing business would find a sympathetic ear.

When Devey first talks it’s with a disarmingly sympathetic tone. She’s addressing a woman who has forgotten her pitch. While her co-dragons stare into the silence, eyes rolling and lips pursing for the close ups, the new girl offers some much-needed comfort. And she’s the only millionaire to offer kind words--though admittedly no investment--to a man who has invented a device to eliminate a common toilet-based woe. “Where there’s muck there’s luck,” she purrs. At this point you’re think: “Fair enough, but please let there be more to this woman than a kind heart and fridge magnet aphorisms.”

Thankfully, there is. Devey soon proves she’s neither a pushover nor an idiot. Instead, she's funny and piercingly sharp. When an entrepreneur won’t answer her question with a straight answer, her good mood evaporates. The other dragons suck up her impressive rage, air finger jabbing and excellent parting catch phrase: “You would make my foot itch, mate.” The angrier Devey gets, the more her head sinks into her jacket. It’s as if she’s preparing to do a 360-degree arm swivel and shoot bullets from her scarlet fingernails.

So, we rather like Hilary. Plus, it’s important for a show like Dragons’ Den to freshen its face occasionally. James Caan was measured and discerning but easily the most forgettable panellist. Hilary Devey, on the other hand, is all about theatrical mood swings and over the top declarations of intent. You can imagine her doing pretty much anything to secure a hunk of a desirable business. In her first episode you'll see just how driven the woman is when she tells an entrepreneur that not only is she willing to invest, but she'll also throw in a team of her “people”. This is perplexing and off-putting, even to the individual pitching. But that’s our Hilary. She’s passionate, unpredictable and shamelessly fierce. In the Den these are priceless commodities.

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