Last month saw the second half of series 12 restart on the box with men’s leggings, ladies’ heels and a smartphone-operated Easy Bulb among the eclectic pitches under the spotlight. However, it was the shock announcement during the mid-season break that design guru Kelly Hoppen is leaving the show that really got tongues wagging. The businesswoman, who has filmed just two series, cited work commitments as the reason, insisting the experience has been “brilliant” and “a privilege”.
As well as paying tribute to the entrepreneurs she has met on the hit BBC2 show, Hoppen expressed regret at having to say goodbye to her fellow dragons. It’s these relationships we’ll be scrutinising in this post in an effort to ascertain exactly who’s a team player when it comes to investing, and who prefers to go it alone.
Who splashes the most cash per series?
It’s the towering Peter Jones who’s head and shoulders above the other dragons when it comes to topping the investment leader board on a series-by-series basis. He’s expended more than anyone else in five out of the 12 series, and is also the dragon who’s splurged the most money in a single series – a whopping £759,423 in series 10. This was the first series, however, to stretch to 12 episodes, which might also have contributed to the spike in spending.
Jones is followed by Theo Paphitis, who was readiest with the cash in four series, albeit sharing that title with Deborah Meaden in series three. James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne only managed to come out top once, in series six and eight respectively.
It’s interesting that all these dragons are also the longest-serving on the show. Those – like Hoppen, Hilary Devey, Richard Farleigh, Rachel Elnaugh, Doug Richard, Simon Woodroffe and Piers Linney – who only appear in one or two series never prove to be top investors. Having said that, Hoppen still has time to buck that trend before she departs…
Group investments per dragon
It’s all change, however, when we examine who invests most per series as part of a group. In this light, Jones’s performance is much less impressive – he only tops the dragon leader board twice (in series one and eight). Instead, the big partnership players are Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden, with four series at the top apiece.
It’s also interesting to note group investments tend to be a favourite with two dragons whose series shelf-life, so to speak, was short. Both Richard Farleigh and Hilary Devey topped the series group spend list in series four and nine respectively, despite only appearing in one other series each.
Who invests with who?
If you’re looking for a match made in money heaven, look no further than Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden. We’ve already ascertained their appetite for group investment, and there’s no one they’d rather enter into it with than each other. This pair makes up the most common investing couple, although Paphitis also often partners with Peter Jones.
Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan are similarly faithful when it comes to joint financing. It’s interesting to note, however, the people Bannatyne doesn’t deal with on the show. As a rule of thumb, he tends to avoid long-serving dragons. Take Deborah Meaden, for example, with whom he’s only invested with once in 90 episodes. It’s telling then that his favourite partner, Caan, only took part in four series.
Where is the love?
The Bannatyne/Caan dynamic definitely deserves further scrutiny if we’re to understand why certain Den partnerships succeed where others fail. It would be tempting to assume that existing friendships lay at least some foundation for a joint investment – but it’s not necessarily the case. In April 2010 a well-publicised war of words erupted after a Daily Telegraph article quoted Bannatyne insisting it was “unfair” that, as a non-dom, Caan did not pay tax in the UK on money he earned overseas. Despite conceding that “James and I get on so well, and there couldn’t be a nicer man to be in competition,” Bannatyne’s allegations seem to have soured any personal regard Caan may have had for his Den neighbour. Reports followed of handshake snubs and the ‘feud’ was further fired by a comment Caan made in The Evening Standard where, in an apparent reference to Bannatyne’s court martial and dishonourable discharge from the Navy as a teenager, he said: “I’ve got no beef with any Dragon, so long as they have the means to invest on the show with me, and as long as they don’t have a criminal record.”
It seems, then, that the BBC spokeswoman who responded to the spat was correct to maintain the show does not rely on the panellists getting on. Dragon’s Den is not a “team effort,” after all. Instead, “it is all about entrepreneurs pitching to individual Dragons in the hope of winning backing for their ideas, and five hard-headed investors looking for the best deal,” she said.
It’s a view Deborah Meaden corroborates. In an interview with the Daily Mail she conceded: “I’m probably closest to Theo, because we’ve invested in seven projects together. And Peter’s got a lovely sense of humour. I’ll see them socially. I get on with Duncan, but I don’t see him outside the Den, and James I sometimes bump into.” But, she insisted, “I don’t really get that whole, ‘who’s your best friend?'” Business is business, BBF or not.
Look for hard finance, not a heartwarming friendship. If you share the maxim that two heads are better than one, Theo and Deborah are the best couple to solicit for shared investment.
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