The Dragons get burnt

Bannatyne and Caan find out the couple they promised to invest in weren't such a safe bet after all

We’re often approached here at startups with tales of Dragons’ Den rejects that proved the fiery panel wrong after being turned away by Peter Jones and co. However, we don’t often hear about when the Dragons’ investments take a turn for the worse.

During the current season of the hit BBC2 show, James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne agreed to invest in husband and wife duo Mark and Elina Davis’ Caribbean ready meals venture, Phillips Foods. The couple went home with a promise of £100,000 of the Dragons’ cash in exchange for a 50% equity stake in the business.

However, it has now emerged that the pair were a somewhat dodgy investment to say the least. Declared bankrupt last year, the couple reportedly ran three limited companies into the ground leaving a large debt trail.

Obviously the pair didn’t mention any of this in their pitch, choosing instead to focus on the deals they had lined up with ASDA and Morrisons to stock the meals.

But what wasn’t mentioned to Bannatyne and Caan on camera was that Mark was disqualified from being a company director and Elina has received a ban since filming.

We contacted the BBC to find out if Bannatyne and Caan were still going ahead with the deal now that all this had come to light, and its spokesperson told us:

Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan are currently going through the due diligence process with Phillips Foods so no decision has yet been made as to whether the investment will proceed.

“Prior to filming, the production team undertakes its own checks to establish the identity of the entrepreneurs and the authenticity of any business which is to be pitched.”

The BBC said in the case of Mark and Elina’s pitch, the production team had been satisfied that the business was being run on a sole trader basis, therefore not contravening Mark’s ban on being a director.

It seems Theo Paphitis’ original assessment of Phillips Foods was spot on: Nothing adds up.


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