James Caan (entrepreneur)

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James Caan
James Caan (entrepreneur).jpg
Born Nazim Khan[1]
Urdu: جيمس خان

(1960-12-28) 28 December 1960 (age 53)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Residence London, England
Nationality Pakistani-British
Ethnicity Punjabi
Occupation Entrepreneur
Known for Business, Recruitment, Dragons' Den
Net worth £95 million[2]
Spouse(s) Aisha Caan
Children 2

James Caan (born Nazim Khan; 28 December 1960) is a British-Pakistani entrepreneur[3] and television personality.

He is best known as a former investor on the BBC television program Dragons’ Den, in which he was one of the Dragons from 2007 to 2010. More recently, he has hosted The Business Class on CNBC, a series which sees him joined by experts from a cross section of industries to analyse and advise innovative UK small and medium enterprises.[4] He is also Chairman of the UK Government's Start Up Loans scheme, which supports entrepreneurs with funding and mentoring to start their own business.[5]

Caan initially achieved success in the recruitment industry. He founded the recruitment company Alexander Mann Group in 1985, and sold it in 2002. In 1993, Caan co-founded the executive head-hunting firm Humana International, in which he sold his stake in 1999. He is also the founder and currently CEO of the UK-based private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw. [6]

In 2013, he was named Chairman of the Year at the International Business Awards.[7]

Caan has been involved in a number of charitable activities and founded the James Caan Foundation in 2006. Caan did not attend university as an undergraduate, but graduated from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2003.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, Caan's family emigrated to the United Kingdom when he was two years old. His father subsequently established a clothing company in Brick Lane, East London. Caan's father had intended him to join the family business once his formal education was completed, but Caan decided he wanted to find his own way in the world. At 16, before he had begun his O-Levels, he left home and moved to a flat in Kensington. This led to Caan's being estranged from his father for many years.

Other than a Saturday job at Mr Buyright, Caan had no formal experience of work and so went to a recruitment agency to find some. His first job was door to door sales, which he found tiring. At this point, he knew he wanted to work in an office. He went back to the recruitment agency and asked for something that was indoors and saw a job working for Grand Metropolitan. He worked for several recruitment companies and started a fashion boutique with his wife before deciding he wanted to start his own company.[8]

Caan started his own recruitment company in the early 1980s. His first office was in Pall Mall but was so small that the door could not be fully opened as it was blocked by his desk.[9] He purposely chose the prestigious address to convey an image that the company was bigger than it actually was to attract clients. As he had no meeting rooms, client meetings would often take place in coffee shops, and he would tell them that they were so busy that all the rooms were full. At this time he also changed his name from Nazim Khan to James Caan after seeing a film by the famous actor and an alternative way to spell “Khan”; this also helped him in his recruitment company, as the name was more easily recognisable.[1]

Caan did not excel at school and did not attend university as an undergraduate, but graduated from the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2003.



He founded the recruitment company Alexander Mann in 1987. In 1993 Caan co-founded the executive headhunting firm Humana International with Doug Bugie, eventually growing the business to over 147 offices in 30 countries. In the same year Caan launched the trade magazine Recruitment International, which he later sold in 2000. In 1996 Caan co-founded the business process outsourcing company AMS with Rosaleen Blair. Caan subsequently sold his interests in AMS in 2002. Caan sold Humana International to CDI International, a New York listed company, in 1999. Later in that year Caan sold a minority stake in Alexander Mann Group to private equity firm Advent International.

In 2002 Caan sold his interests in Alexander Mann, which by that time had a turnover of around £130m. In 2004 Caan established the London-based private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw. In the same year he invested in the managed office provider Avanta, which he sold three years later to the private equity company Kenmore. In 2007 Hamilton Bradshaw acquired the recruitment specialist Eden Brown and Caan sold his remaining interest in Alexander Mann Group to Graphite Private Equity in a management buy-out lead by Rosaleen Blair.

In 2009 Caan launched HBRIDA, with his then business partner Helen Reynolds ( ex ACEO of the REC). HBRIDA worked with SME recruitment agencies to help them achieve growth and led them to an exit. Reynolds performed a management buyout of the business in March 2012. In 2010 Caan launched The Entrepreneurs Business Academy and became a non–Executive Director of McCaan London. In 2011 Caan founded Hamilton Bradshaw Venture Partners.

In 2012/13, Caan launched Hamilton Bradshaw Real Estate (HBRE) to invest in "disruptive property start-ups".[10]


In 2007 Caan joined the panel of Dragons’ Den judges for the fifth series of the show. Hilary Devey replaced James Caan on Dragons Den in 2012.

Through his role on Dragons’ Den, Caan worked with Children in Need for many years. In 2008, Children in Need filmed a ‘Youth Dragons Den’. ‘Look for Loneliness’ was his initiative to help reduce bullying and get children to understand what it is like to feel isolated. Caan went on to work with Children in Need in 2009, helping to renovate a Community Centre for young people to visit before and after school.

In 2008, in aid of Comic Relief, Caan teamed up with the other presenters of Dragons Den for a special edition of the programme titled ‘Victorians Dragons’ Den’. In December 2009 Caan joined the Sport Relief team on a four-day trip to Kenya.

In 2012, he was approached by CNBC to host The Business Class, a series which sees him joined by experts from a cross section of industries, looking at the challenges and opportunities faced by UK SMEs. Each 30 minute episode featured an innovative business which was seeking guidance to help it grow in the market place. The popularity of the series saw it recommisioned for a second series in October 2013.[11]

In 2014 Caan joined the UKs largest business magazine Business Matters as a columnist[12]

Public sector[edit]

Caan has been involved with the British Government and their agencies on a number of initiatives related to UK business for many years. These include The Government Entrepreneur’s Forum [13]and The Department for International Development (DFID) where he worked on the relief effort after the 2010 Pakistan flood.

The Start Up Loans Company[edit]

In May 2012, Caan was approached by the government to become Chairman of the Start Up Loans initiative. The aim is to support young people with funding and mentoring to start up new businesses in the UK. Over £112 million of loans were to be offered to 18-30 year olds over a 3 year period. James and his board of entrepreneur ambassadors head up the government scheme, providing loans of around £2,500 to the 18 - 30 year olds to start their own businesses. [14]

In the first twelve months, nearly 8000 new businesses were started, leading Caan to comment: "Start Up Loans has gone through an incredible journey, having kick started nearly 8,000 businesses in just one year. Originally given £10m to pilot the idea, Start Up Loans now has a fund of £151.5m. We ourselves are a start-up, and the progress we have made has been incredibly exciting." [15]

In October, it was confirmed that the success of the scheme meant the age cap was being lifted, and it was now open to those over 30. [16]

Charitable activities[edit]

The James Caan Foundation[edit]

Caan founded the James Caan Foundation (JCF) in 2006 after he took a ‘gap year’ to visit his homeland of Pakistan.[17] The JCF supports charities in the UK and seeks to promote greater awareness of issues facing the developing world, with a primary focus on children's access to education and healthcare.

The JCF has funded the construction of a new school at his birthplace Lahore, located in the eastern province of Punjab. Since first purchasing a barren plot of land and opening the 16-classroom school in 2005, the TCF School, named after Caan’s father, educates over 420 children aged between 5-11.

2010 Pakistan floods[edit]

In July 2010, Caan flew to Pakistan immediately after the worst flooding in the country's history and personally purchased, prepared and delivered emergency food parcels to families in the Northern village of Nowshera.[disambiguation needed][18]

Upon his return to the UK Caan partnered with UNICEF to provide urgent food, medical supplies and water and hygiene kits to 1,000 families in the affected area. Caan also undertook an extensive media outreach campaign and his trip was widely covered in national newspapers. After just two weeks, Caan had raised £100,000 for UNICEF. Caan and the James Caan Foundation subsequently undertook a project to rebuild a village in Pakistan, including schools, hospitals, homes and all infrastructure and water supplies.[19] Aid agencies including UNICEF, Oxfam, Islamic Relief, Muslim Hands and Mosaic were also involved in the project.


Caan is involved with and supports other charities including the The Prince’s Trust, Marie Curie, Mosaic, Care Foundation and the NSPCC. In 2009 Caan was appointed chairman of The Big Issue Company.[20]


Attempted purchase of a baby[edit]

Caan drew criticism when he was caught on camera offering to buy a baby from a family that was a victim of the 2010 Pakistan flood. Caan insisted the offer had been made with good intentions, but stated that he regretted the incident and described his behaviour as "clearly wrong".[21] Caan was later filmed saying: "If there's an opportunity to give a life a chance of survival, it's more an emotional response than a rational decision. What I have to remember is that I am here to build a village. That child belongs to that family".[22]

Tax avoidance[edit]

Hamilton Bradshaw [Caan's UK private equity company] was at one point owned by a Cayman Island company, which allowed him to circumvent UK tax as a non-domiciled resident. Fellow Dragons' Den entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne argued that UK-born entrepreneurs are at a disadvantage to non-domiciled residents who have made their fortune in Britain but can fund their lifestyles from monies held overseas that do not attract UK tax.

However, as of 2011, Hamilton Bradshaw are no longer a Cayman Island company and are registered as a UK firm.[23]

Employment of his daughter[edit]

In June 2013, Caan was announced as the UK government's new 'social mobility tsar'. After giving an interview in which he criticised parents who aid their children with finding jobs and don't let them 'stand on their own two feet', he was accused of hypocrisy when it emerged that he had employed his own daughter in one of his companies.[24]

Caan responded that his daughter's recruitment process had been "rigorous", and stated that the outburst around this revelation would not detract from his six month effort to campaign for a breakdown of employment barriers.[25]


  • 2008 - The Real Deal (autobiography)
  • 2011 - Get the Job You Really Want
  • 2012 - Get the Life you Really Want
  • 2012 - Start Your Business in 7 Days



  1. ^ a b James Caan, Daily Mail, 20 September 2008, "Why Dragons' Den star James Caan took out a £30k bank loan to win his wife"
  2. ^ Recruiter, 22 April 2013, "Recruitment's gilded seven in Sunday Times Rich list"
  3. ^ http://www.companydirectorcheck.com/james-caan-2 list of companies owned by James Caan
  4. ^ http://www.cnbc.com/id/49037243 The Business Class with James Caan
  5. ^ http://www.startuploans.co.uk/ Start Up Loans Company
  6. ^ James Caan worked in companies REALSTONE CONSULTING LTD, BRITISH PAKISTAN FOUNDATION FOR DEVELOPMENT, FAST FIX BOX LTD as Director, Investment director, Vchief executive officer. http://www.companydirectorcheck.com/james-caan-3
  7. ^ http://www.thebiponline.co.uk/bip/james-caan-awarded-chairman-of-the-year-at-the-2013/ James Caan Awarded Chairman of the Year at the 2013 International Business Awards
  8. ^ Caan, James (2008). The real deal: my story from Brick Lane to Dragons' Den. Virgin Books. ISBN 9781905264452. 
  9. ^ "James Caan The Dragons’ Den panellist on gap years, what makes the ideal investment and his unwavering obsession with windows". Startups Awards. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  10. ^ http://www.primeresi.com/looking-for-the-next-rightmove-primeresi-meets-faisal-butt/14342/
  11. ^ http://www.cnbc.com/id/101083181 James Caan To Host Business Series On CNBC To Help SMEs
  12. ^ http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/author/james-caan/ Business Matters magazine columns
  13. ^ "UK government creates Entrepreneurs' Forum advisory board.". Tech Crunch. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "Start-up loans scheme expanded". BBC News. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Start Up Loans Company celebrates its one-year anniversary". james-caan.com[disambiguation needed]. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Age Cap Lifted And Looking For New Partners To Deliver". Start Up Loans[disambiguation needed]. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  17. ^ "James Caan: 'If anyone wasn’t going to make it then I should have topped that list!'". Asian Image. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  18. ^ "James Caan: the Dragon humbled by Pakistan floods disaster". The Daily Telegraph (London). 27 August 2010. 
  19. ^ http://www.hellomagazine.com/magazine/
  20. ^ "James Caan appointed chairman of The Big Issue". Growing Business. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "BBC News - Dragon James Caan 'regrets offer to buy baby'". Daily Record. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  22. ^ "Dragons' Den tycoon James Caan apologises after trying to buy baby on TV". Daily Record. 23 October 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  23. ^ Ltd, DueDil (10 October 2011). "Hamilton Bradshaw Limited". DueDil (London). Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Walker, Peter (5 June 2013). "James Caan: social mobility tsar denies nepotism but employs his daughter". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  25. ^ [TV experts turned tsars: How did they do?|http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22716241]
  26. ^ "James Caan awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of East London". The Richest. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  27. ^ http://w3.yorksj.ac.uk/news/news/news-archive-2010/dragons-den-investor-amongst.aspx

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