JOHN Hays, the founder of Hays Travel, has died.
JOHN Hays, who started the travel firm in 1980, collapsed and died today while working at its head office in Sunderland.
His wife, Irene Hays, co-owned the business.
The pair were praised in October 2019 when they saved the jobs of thousands of former Thomas Cook staff, by purchasing all 555 of the collapsed tour operator’s UK high street travel agencies, in a deal worth just over £6million .
Hays Travel said in a statement: “It is with the deepest sadness and regret that we have to announce that John Hays, the founder and managing director of Hays Travel, died today while doing the job he loved.
“John, who with his wife and co-owner Irene Hays bought the Thomas Cook retail estate a year ago, was at work in the company’s Sunderland head office when he collapsed.
“John built Hays Travel into the UK’s largest independent travel agent, providing jobs and careers for thousands of young people over 40 years.
“Throughout this past difficult year he did everything in his power to save jobs and protect the travel industry.
“He was held in immense respect by his staff, colleagues, family and friends, and was recognised throughout his life for his many achievements.”
The statement added: “He was equally proud of his loyal staff who, under the direction of the board and senior management team, will ensure that the business continues to serve the customers of the UK’s largest independent travel agent as he would have wanted.”
More than 7,000 people are employed by the firm.