Dragons’ Den: Duncan Bannatyne OBE

The longest serving Dragon after Peter Jones, the health club magnate’s diverse den portfolio includes RKA Records and The Wand Company…

Dragon from: Series 1 to Series 12, 2005 to 2015
Number of investments made: 36
Largest sum invested: £200,000
Most successful investment on the show: RKA Records

Who is Duncan Bannatyne?

Unlike many of his fellow Dragons, Duncan Bannatyne didn’t discover his entrepreneurial zeal until he was nearly 30. Having left school with no qualifications at 15, the entrepreneur joined the Royal Navy as a junior second-class engineering mechanic. He subsequently received a dishonourable discharge for threatening to throw one of his superior officers off a boat landing jetty.

His employment history during his twenties was certainly colourful, including a stint as a tractor mechanic, deckchair attendant, ice cream seller and hospital porter on the isle of Jersey before moving to Stockton-on-Tees at age 29 with his first wife Gail Brodie. It was here that he first bought an ice cream van for £450. This blossomed into a fleet of vans and he eventually sold the business after growing the annual turnover to nearly £300,000. With the sale proceeds he founded a nursing home, which he went on to sell for £26m in 1997, as well as a children’s nursing chain Just Learning for £22m.

Since then, his business interests have included a chain of health clubs, bars, hotels and various properties, amassing him a personal fortune thought to be in the region of £430m.

Bannatyne was also awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2004 for his contributions to charity.

Bannatyne as a Dragon

During his 10-year stint in the Den, Bannatyne made 36 investments in companies such as clothing brand Young Ones, reusable cable tie business the Rapstrap and his biggest single investment of £200,000 into The Wand Company.

Bannatyne’s most successful investment in the Den – and one of the only ones to have gone through after the show was RKA Records. Originally investing £50,000 for 79% equity in Series 9 of the show, the firm was renamed Bannatyne Music Ltd in 2012, with the entrepreneur owning a 51% share in the business. In 2013, it was sold to Sony and Gut Entertainment Group.

Alongside Peter Jones, Bannatyne also co-invested £65,000 for 30% equity in sugar and dairy-free ice cream company Worthenshaw’s. Now branded Kirsty’s and available in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda, founder Kirsty Henshaw bought her shares back from the Dragons and now owns 100% of the business.

Life after the Den

In January 2016, Bannatyne revealed on Twitter that he’d sold off all the investments he made in the Den.

He appeared as a contestant on the ITV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in Series 15, becoming the fifth contestant to be eliminated.

In May, Bannatyne announced plans to float his estimated £300m chain of 66 health clubs on the stock market to facilitate its expansion, but was forced to abandon his plans in light of “regulatory scrutiny”.

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