Tributes have been paid after the death of the founder of Hays Travel.
John Hays, who started the travel firm in 1980, collapsed yesterday while working at its head office in Sunderland.
He was married to co-owner Irene Hays. The pair were praised in October 2019 when they prevented thousands of former Thomas Cook staff from losing their jobs by purchasing all 555 of the collapsed tour operator's UK travel agencies.
Hays Travel said: "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."