Deborah Meaden

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Deborah Meaden
Born (1959-02-11) 11 February 1959 (age 59)
Taunton, Somerset, England
Residence Somerset
Primrose Hill, London
Nationality British
Education Trowbridge High School
Alma mater Brighton Technical College
Occupation Businesswoman
Known for Dragons' Den
Strictly Come Dancing
Title Deborah Meaden and family
Spouse(s) Paul (m. 1993)

Deborah Sonia Meaden (born 11 February 1959) is an English businesswoman who ran a multimillion-pound family holiday business (caravan park), before completing a management buyout, but is now best known for her appearances on the BBC Two business programme Dragons' Den.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Meaden was born in Somerset. Her parents divorced when she was young and her mother moved Deborah and her older sister Gail to Brightlingsea in Essex. Her mother remarried and had two more daughters (Cass and Emma) with Brian, the man Meaden calls Dad.[4] Meaden went to the Godolphin School, Salisbury, for a brief period and then to Trowbridge High School for Girls (now The John of Gaunt School).[5] Meaden's first paid job was leading pony rides along Minehead seafront when she was eight years of age.[6]


On leaving school when she was 16, Meaden studied business at Brighton Technical College, after which she worked as a sales-room model in a fashion house.[7] After graduation, she moved to Italy at 19 and set up a glass and ceramics export agency,[3] which sold products to retailers including Harvey Nichols.[7] The company failed after 18 months.[4]

Meaden and a partner bought one of the first Stefanel textile franchises in the UK, and which was based in the West Country; she sold out two years later to her partner for £10,000.[4] She then had several successful leisure and retail businesses including a spell operating a Prize Bingo at Butlins in Minehead.

In 1988, Meaden joined her family's business to run its amusement arcade operations and in 1992, joined Weststar Holidays, a family holiday park operator based in Exeter, Devon, with its major sites based in South West England. In 1999, she led a management buyout and acquired the majority shareholding. By the time she sold the company 6 years later, the Weststar was providing holidays for more than 150,000 people each year with an EBITDA in excess of £11m. In 2005, she made a partial exit when Weststar was sold in a deal worth £33 million to Phoenix Equity Partners,[8] and, in August 2007, her remaining stake of 23%[9] in Weststar Holidays was liquidated when the firm was sold to Alchemy Partners for £83m, valuing her stake at about £19m.[10]

In 2009, Meaden acquired Fox Brothers, a West Country textile mill established in 1772 and still based in Wellington, Somerset along with fellow shareholder, Douglas Cordeaux, former design director at Pepe Jeans London.[11] She was also involved in a collaboration with BBC conductor Charles Hazlewood, 'Play the Field', a weekend of classical music on Charles's farm in Somerset over the August bank holiday weekend 2009.[12] In October 2011, Meaden launched 'The Merchant Fox', an online store selling British-made luxury goods with provenance.


Meaden is most famous for her appearance as a "dragon" on the BBC Two programme Dragons' Den. She took over from Rachel Elnaugh in the third series of the show on 3 August 2006. Like Elnaugh who preceded her, Meaden was the only female "dragon" on the programme, although this changed in subsequent seasons with the arrival of Hilary Devey to replace James Caan. So far in the Den, she has agreed investments in 63 businesses to the value of over £3.3m, making her the highest investor on the show by average. [13]

Strictly Come Dancing[edit]

Meaden took part in the eleventh series of the BBC One dancing show Strictly Come Dancing, which began on 7 September 2013 and was partnered with professional dancer Robin Windsor.[14][15][16][17] She was eliminated from the show on 26 October.

Week # Dance/Song Judges' scores Result
Craig Revel Horwood Darcey Bussell Len Goodman Bruno Tonioli Total
1 Tango / "Money, Money, Money" 6 6 6 6 24 Safe
2 Cha-Cha-Cha / "Respect" 5 7 6 6 24 Safe
3 Quickstep / "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" 7 7 7 7 28 Safe
4 Jive / "Making Your Mind Up" 5 6 6 6 23 Safe
5 Viennese Waltz / "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" 6 7 7 7 27 Eliminated

Other appearances[edit]


Meaden published Common Sense Rules (Random House) in the UK in May 2009. She used a ghostwriting service known as Professional Ghost to complete this project.[19]

Other work[edit]

In November 2009, Meaden featured in a short film to promote Somerset to businesses, commissioned by Into Somerset,[20] having previously recorded two other short films for the inward investment agency in February 2009.[21]

Meaden is a member of the Council of Ambassadors of the World Wildlife Fund.[22]

She does a lot of work with the Dogs Trust charity and is an ambassador for the Marine Conservation Society.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Meaden met her husband, Paul, in summer 1985, while he worked at Weststar during his university break. She didn't want a family so they separated, but after she took a trip to Venezuela, she returned to London and they married in 1993. The couple have no children, and live on a restored model farm in Somerset with numerous animals.[24]


In 2009, a planning inspector criticised Meaden's evidence to his enquiry as "implausible" in a dispute over the granting of village green status to a field on which Mudstone LLP, a firm in which she is a partner, wished to build 48 homes.[25][26]


In July 2010, Meaden was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Exeter Business School.[27] She also received an honorary degree from Staffordshire University in the same month.[28] She was also given an honorary degree at Keele University in July 2013.[29] In July 2014, Meaden was awarded an honorary degree from Bath Spa University.


  1. ^ "Sunday Times Rich List 2008". London: The Sunday Times. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  2. ^ "My Bottom Line: entrepreneur Deborah Meaden". BBC. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Hardy, Rebecca (16 August 2008). "The only deal that Dragon Deborah failed to close? Children". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hardy, Rebecca (16 August 2008). "The only deal that Dragon Deborah failed to close? Children". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  5. ^ "The alternative Rich List". Daily Mail – This is Money. 16 July 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  6. ^ "TV Dragon Deborah Meaden tells how her worst mistake". This is Money. 
  7. ^ a b "Vicky Frost Meets Deborah Meaden". The Guardian. London. 28 August 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "Deborah Meaden – profile". BBC Dragons' Den. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  9. ^ "Deborah Meaden – WWF UK". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "Deborah Meaden and family". Sunday Times Rich List 2008. London: The Sunday Times. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  11. ^ Keens, Emma (16 January 2010). "I'm in: Dragon Meaden buys Fox Brothers". The Times. 
  12. ^ "Play the field site". 
  13. ^ "Question time with Hannah Pool: Dragons' Den's Deborah Meaden on why she can't stand bullshit". The Guardian. London. 22 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  14. ^ Plunkett, John (2 September 2013). "Strictly Come Dancing 2013 contestants unveiled | Television & radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing 2013 full lineup: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Ben Cohen – Strictly Come Dancing News – Reality TV". Digital Spy. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  16. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing Deborah Meaden: 'Criticism must be constructive' – Strictly Come Dancing News – Reality TV". Digital Spy. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "BBC One – Strictly Come Dancing – Deborah Meaden". 1 January 1970. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  18. ^ BBC Speaker programme
  19. ^ "Previous Work and Testimonials". Professional Ghost. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "Credit Crunch". BBC. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  21. ^ Into Somerset video gallery Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine. – Into Somerset website
  22. ^ "Deborah Meaden". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Deborah Meaden: 'I was selling flowers at the age of seven'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  25. ^ Dragons' Den star in planning row. BBC News (4 September 2009). Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  26. ^ Planning inspector blasts TV Dragon Meaden. (4 September 2009). Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  27. ^ "Honorary graduates 2010-11 Deborah Meaden (LLD)". University of Exeter. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  28. ^ Staffordshire University announces 2010 honours list. Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  29. ^ "Keele Honorary Degrees Summer 2013". Keele University. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 

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