How we met: Hilary Devey & Greg James
'I told him I'd decided to buy a 76 per cent stake in him – I left his mum with the other 24 per cent'
Greg James, 27
Spotted by Radio One while on student radio at the University of East Anglia, James started filling in for DJs such as Sara Cox before landing his own show, first on Radio 1's Early Afternoon slot and then the prestigious drivetime show between 4pm and 7pm. He's since hosted a number of TV shows, including 'Britain Unzipped' on BBC Three with the comedian Russell Kane. He lives in London.
I became obsessed with Hilary when she started on Dragons' Den in 2011. She looked very stern and powerful but she was actually nice to people who came on. And she had these incredible shoulder pads. As she had such a unique style of voice, I tried to do some ludicrous impression of her on my radio show the next day, and it became a regular thing. She eventually got wind of it, but luckily she wasn't offended and found it funny.
We met when she came on my show that summer. She wore a massive hat and looked very fashionable: I think that for Hilary, her appearance and feeling glamorous is very important. We got on so well that she became a regular fixture on the show. But it was through charity – the Stroke Association – that we forged a bond. Hilary had a stroke in 2009 and I had a personal connection to it, too.
I admire her greatly. She's created an incredible empire in making her fortune with haulage; it usually conjures a picture of men lying reclined in a lorry cab fast asleep, yet she has projected glamour and femininity in what is mostly a man's world. She's really a pussy cat, the sweetest person I've met – though of course in business she has to be stern, as she's had to kick some arse and tell a lot of blokes where to go.
I love how on the one hand she can be effortlessly diva-like – she in no way thinks twice about being driven round in a Rolls-Royce – but she's also really earthy, too: I remember arriving early at one charity event we were doing together, and as I looked out the window, there she was sat in her brand new Rolls, windows down and having a fag.
When have I seen her at her most unflappable? Recently, when we did The Million Pound Drop Live together for charity. When I messed up my first question [and lost £830,000], it was the most nerve-racking thing I've ever done and I panicked. But Hilary was calm and controlled – and never had a go at me for messing up.
I've loved her other shows, like the one for young entrepreneurs [Channel 4's The Intern], though I think it was a bit uncharitable of Duncan Bannatyne to say that she never turned up on time to shoot Dragons' Den. Hilary can do what she wants, as she's been through a lot over the past few years, so it's fair enough. He should have given her a break.
Hilary Devey CBE, 56
A businesswoman, Devey made her fortune revolutionising the UK pallet industry with her freight network company Pall-EX. Her forthright nature and colourful dress sense led to her appearance on TV series including 'The Secret Millionaire', 'Dragons' Den' and most recently 'The Intern'. She lives in London.
I'd never heard of Greg until two years ago, when people at my company started telling me about this DJ who was doing an impression of me and how I was the butt of all these jokes on his show! So I started listening to him, and I had to laugh; it was hysterical. It carried on all that summer – he even made a cut-out doll of me, with shoulder pads, that listeners could go online and print out, and everywhere I'd go I saw people donning those masks.
I said on the next Dragons' Den episode that I'd come on his show and meet him, and we really hit it off: lots of easy banter about teaching me about business. I told him that I'd decided to buy a 76 per cent stake in him – I left his mum with the other 24 per cent. He was a funny, witty chap and I remember thinking that he'll go far.
After that I went on his show all the time, for a bit of fun or when I wanted to talk about a book I was doing or my TV shows. I now feel he's like my adopted son; he's got a big mop of hair that I always feel like combing. Part of that is because he's the same age of my own son, who'd actually love to meet Greg.
We meet for lunch and go to a lot of charity events together. Though obviously we haven't been clubbing together, I once remember checking my Twitter account at 3am and Greg was tweeting about the club he was in. So I tweeted him saying, "Greg go home its gone three am now!" He's handsome, so he should have no problems pulling the girls.
It's not easy being a radio-show presenter, chatting on your own, but I think Greg does a magnificent job. He's also one of the few radio DJs who can carry off TV: either you've got a face for TV or you haven't.
The stroke that I had took away a lot of my independence: I was left with no feeling in my left hand, so I was limited in how much cooking I could do – and I can't drive as it affected my left leg, too. I'm impressed by the way Greg understands that, and that he's so supportive of the Stroke Association. He's seen the effects of a stroke from a young age, after his grandad suffered from one, and he understands that though it happens to one person, it effects everybody in that house. It has shown me what a caring lad he is, too.
It's also why we did The Million Pound Drop Live [the pair raised £50,000 for the Stroke Association and the Carers Trust] – though I was a bit bemused that he could lose £830,000 on a question about pop music!
Hilary Devey and Greg James support the Stroke Association (stroke.org.uk)
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