There’ll be a lot less fire-breathing when Dragons Duncan Bannatyne, Piers Linney and Kelly Hoppen leave the Den after tonight’s series finale. All three are off, with Bannatyne admitting his “heart wasn’t in investing anymore”, Linney off to “pursue other interests” and Hoppen saying she’s too busy with business to film the BBC show.
Health club mogul Bannatyne was on the very first panel of Dragons when the show started a decade ago, but now that he’s gone to greener pastures, mutilmillionaire Peter Jones is the last original Dragon standing.
So, in honour of the exiting investors, we’ve looked back to see what the former panellists are up to now…
The first female Dragon, Elnaugh left the show after two series when her Red Letter Days gift business collapsed, although it was bought out of administration by fellow Dragons Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones in 2005. She had made five investments over the first two seasons of the show and the former Dragon is now a motivational speaker, mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs.
Woodtroffe founded YO! Sushi, the conveyer belt sushi bars, in 1997 and sold 75% of the company in 2003. He began his career as a set designer for rock bands in the sixties but then turned his efforts to money-making.
He was a Dragon for just one series and his sole investment was in a company who made black truffles. He received an OBE in 2006 and is now developing the YO! brand into hotels and home design.
The Californian entrepreneur made his fortune in the 1990s, buying and selling software firms in the US before moving to Blighty in 2001. One of the original Dragons, Richard left the BBC show in 2005 after failing to make any investments in the second series. His reasoning was to devote more time to his businesses, with filming for the BBC show taking up too many hours in the day. Richard went on to advise David Cameron and George Osbourne on small businesses.
Theo replaced Simon Woodroffe in the Den from series two and quickly proved a popular Dragon. During his eight-year stint, his investments included the Magic Whiteboard and, memorably, the Bog in a Bag, before his growing business portfolio led him to give up his seat in 2013. That portfolio includes a string of high street favourites including Ryman, Robert Dyas and lingerie brand Boux Avenue (Paphitis reportedly sold his equity stake in La Senza for a cool £100 million in 2006). He may no longer be a weekly feature on the box but he still finds time to dabble in telly, appearing on Question Time and filming two-part BBC documentary Famous, Rich and Hungry.
The show’s producers turned to an Australian former hedge fund manager to replace Rachel Elnaugh in series three and four. Richard Farleigh, who made his money from investing in British technology companies, parted with a total of £130,000 during the two series he spent on the show. He was affable but only until a contestant annoyed him… Since he left the Dragon’s lair, he’s been running a hedge fund advisory business. Farleigh was so rich in the early 90s that he retired at the age of 34 and packed his bags for Monaco, although, tired of playing tennis and learning to ski, he eventually moved back to Britain to re-enter the world of business. Alright for some, eh?
Recruitment tycoon James Caan was a Dragon for series five and six. Caan was born Nazim Khan, changing his name after seeing The Godfather and deciding that the moniker of one of the film’s stars would better suit his chosen career path. A replacement for the good-natured Richard Farleigh, Caan was also one of the kinder Dragons. He quit the show in 2011 after completing four seasons, citing “increasing work commitments”. He currently runs a private equity business.
Dragons’ Den is on Sunday 15th March at 9pm on BBC2