Former ICI boss Sir John Harvey-Jones dies, aged 83

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Sir John Harvey-Jones, the British industry champion who transformed the chemical company ICI and helped struggling businesses across the country through the BBC series Troubleshooter, has died.

Known for his radical, outspoken approach, flamboyant dress sense and unkempt hair, Sir John, 83, died in his sleep at Hereford hospital after a long illness. Lauded within the business world for his chairmanship of ICI from 1982 to 1987, he is credited with turning the company's losses into profits of over £1bn by stripping the company down to its core.

Last night, the current ICI chief executive, John McAdam, said that Sir John "was a legend within ICI and held in very high esteem by everyone in the company". "It's very sad news," he added. Sir John was knighted in 1985 and became a public figure after presenting Troubleshooter in the early 1980s.

The show, a pioneer of modern day "reality" programmes, saw him tour the UK, observing firms' practices and interrogating their directors before coming up with his often radical, and frequently successful, proposals. Sir John was chairman of The Economist, Chancellor of Bradford University and on the board of the hotel chain the Grand Metropolitan, as well as being involved with a number of charities.

In 1991 he published an autobiography, Getting it Together, which revealed internal demons and a conflict between his outward confidence and inward self-doubt. "I come across as being much more arrogantly self-conscious," he said. "I'm a pussycat, actually."

Born in Hackney, London, in 1924, Sir John spent his early years in India, where his father was an Army officer. He went to a preparatory school in Kent and joined the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, from where he was sent, at 16, to sea as a midshipman in 1940.

Sir John leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Betty, and daughter, Gabrielle.