4 of 9

Duncan Bannatyne

Series: 1-12

Notable investments:

  • RKA Records (now Savage Digital Ltd)
  • Worthenshaw’s (now Kirsty’s)
  • The Wand Company

Duncan Bannatyne didn’t become an entrepreneur until he was almost 30. He joined the Royal Navy as a junior second-class engineering mechanic after leaving school at 15 with no qualifications. In his twenties he was a tractor mechanic, a deckchair attendant, ice cream seller and hospital porter before moving to Stockton-on-Tees where he bought an ice cream van for £450. This soon became a fleet of vans that totted up an annual turnover of nearly £300,000 at the time he sold the business. He used this to buy a nursing home which he sold for £26m in 1997 as well as children’s nursing chain Just Learning for £22m.

Duncan became one of the original Dragons in 2005. He invested £2m in 36 investments over his time on the show. He put £50,000 into RKA Records in exchange for 79 per cent of the business (he renamed it Bannatyne Music Ltd in 2012, now it’s called Savage Digital Ltd). It was sold to Sony and Gut Entertainment Group. He left after 12 series due of Dragons’ Den to other business commitments.

Duncan has written a whole host of books: Anyone Can Do It, Wake Up and Change Your Life, Riding the Storm, How to Be Smart with Your Money, 43 Mistakes Businesses Make and 37 Questions Everyone in Business Needs to Answer.  

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

He was in series 15 of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! where he was the fifth contestant to be eliminated. He was also in the Real Marigold Hotel alongside other celebrities in 2020.

In May 2021, he tried to float his 66 health clubs (approximately £300m) on the stock market to facilitate its expansion, but because of ‘regulatory scrutiny’, he had to scrap the plans. He was also offered a massive £250m from an ‘unknown US operator’ for his chain of health clubs but he declined the offer.

Related: Dragon’s Den judges share their best business advice

Avatar photo

Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

4 of 9