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Duncan Bannatyne

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Duncan Bannatyne
Bannatyne in Felixstowe, 2009
Duncan Walker Bannatyne

(1949-02-02) 2 February 1949 (age 75)
Occupation(s)Entrepreneur, investor, television presenter, philanthropist
Known forDragons' Den
Gail Brodie
(m. 1983; div. 1994)
Joanne McCue
(m. 2006; div. 2012)
Nigora Whitehorn
(m. 2017)
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1964–1969

Duncan Walker Bannatyne, OBE (born 2 February 1949)[1] is a Scottish entrepreneur, philanthropist, and author. His business interests include hotels, health clubs, spas, media, TV, and property. He is most famous for his appearance as a business angel on the BBC programme Dragons' Den. He was appointed an OBE for his contribution to charity. He has written seven books.

Early life

Bannatyne was born in Dalmuir, west of Glasgow. His father Bill had served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in World War II and worked on the Burma Railway after being captured by the Japanese following the Fall of Singapore, he then worked in the foundry at the Clydebank Singer plant. As a child, he lived in one room with his parents and siblings in a large house shared with six other families.

He attended Dalmuir Primary School where he displayed a talent for arithmetic and won a place at Clydebank High School after passing the Eleven-plus exam. Most pupils owned a bicycle so he resolved to earn the money to buy one for himself. The local newsagent was not interested in employing him so she challenged him to find 100 new customers in return for a paper round. He called her bluff by returning with 100 names, but later reflected that it would have been more entrepreneurial to have sold the list. He only enjoyed PE and woodwork at the High School and left at 15 without any qualifications.[2]

In 1964, after a few weeks working for a local cabinet-maker he joined the Royal Navy, initially enlisting for twelve years as a junior second class engineering mechanic (stoker) at RNTE Shotley near Ipswich, better known as the boys' training establishment HMS Ganges. He served in the Navy for several years including a spell on the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, before throwing an officer off a boat landing jetty in Scotland and receiving a dishonourable discharge. In his autobiography he claims this was in part a reaction to this officer's abuse of his authority, in part a dare by his shipmates and in part a way of getting out of the Navy, with which he had become disillusioned. Bannatyne was nineteen when this happened. After the incident he had to serve nine months in Colchester military detention centre.[2]


Bannatyne spent his twenties moving from one job to another. Upon his return to Clydebank he trained as an agricultural vehicle fitter and then travelled around the country repairing tractors. He lived on the island of Jersey for four years from 1974 where he gained an HGV licence and earned a living through several jobs including deckchair attendant, ice cream seller and hospital porter. He also surfed, partied and met his first wife on the island. With Jersey's difficult business climate for outsiders, at age 29, Bannatyne and his wife moved to Stockton-on-Tees in North East England. He has stated that he was poor and did not have a bank account until the age of 30.[3]

His business career began almost immediately after his move to Stockton-on-Tees with an ice cream van purchased for £450.[4] He soon expanded by buying more vans during the period of the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars.[5][failed verification][clarification needed]

He sold the business for £28,000, founding a nursing home business called Quality Care Homes which he then sold for £26 million[4] in 1997 and children's nursery chain Just Learning for £12 million.[6] The Just Learning chief executive during the 1992–97 period was Michael Fallon while out of office as an MP.[7]

Bannatyne has since expanded into health clubs, with the Bannatyne Health Club & Spa chain to his name, and also hotels and property. He acquired 26 health clubs from Hilton Hotels in August 2006 at a price of £92 million.[4] The Bannatyne Group is now the largest independent chain of health clubs in the United Kingdom with 71 sites. The business currently (June 2018) has 46 spas with plans for more, including at its first Northern Ireland-based health club in Belfast [8] and it operates 4 hotels.

His wealth as of 2018, was estimated at £280 million (£360,063,200 as of 2024) by the Sunday Times Rich List.[9]

Bannatyne has written seven books: Anyone Can Do It, Wake Up and Change Your Life, How to be Smart With Your Money, How to be Smart With Your Time, 43 Mistakes Businesses Make, 37 Questions Everyone in Business Needs to Answer, and Riding The Storm.


From 2005 until 2015, Bannatyne was a Dragon on the BBC television series Dragons' Den. During his time on the show he invested in 36 businesses.

In 2015, Bannatyne took part in the fifteenth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!. His fee for taking part in the show was donated to the Operation Smile charity.[10]

In 2020, Bannatyne took part in the BBC series The Real Marigold Hotel.[11] He joined other celebrities including Britt Ekland, Henry Blofeld, John Altman, Susie Blake, and Barbara Dickson.

Charity works

Bannatyne received his OBE partly in recognition for his work with charities such as Mary's meals.[12] He has funded several projects over a ten-year period in Romania, including Casa Bannatyne in Târgu-Mureş, a hospice for orphans with HIV and AIDS in which he invested £80,000. He established the Bannatyne Charitable Trust in March 2008.[13]

On 19 May 2008, Bannatyne added his support to the launch of the Geared for Giving Campaign at the House of Commons to encourage UK business leaders to set up and promote a Workplace Giving scheme to benefit UK registered charities with tax effective donations through employees' pay. He then helped to promote Clydesdale Bank's and Yorkshire Bank's efforts to promote the programme through ATM (Automated Teller Machine) rolls. "They are really going for it, over 20 per cent of their employees are giving money through this system", Bannatyne says.[14]

On 29 August 2008, Bannatyne appeared on television programme Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, raising £20,000 for charity NCH.

He became President of the charity No Smoking Day in October 2008. The charity runs the annual health awareness campaign – helping people who want to stop smoking.[15] This followed on from him making a documentary about the ethics of British American Tobacco.[16]

In August 2010, he agreed to become Patron of PC David Rathband's Blue Lamp Foundation, a charity established by the Northumbria Police Constable David Rathband, who was blinded by gunshot wounds in the 2010 Northumbria Police manhunt.[17]

Political activity

Bannatyne supported the Conservative Party when Margaret Thatcher was its leader from 1975 to 1990, but defected to the Labour Party during the tenure of Tony Blair as its leader from 1994 to 2007. He continued to support Labour under Blair's successor Gordon Brown, who led Labour from 2007 to 2010.[18] He also donated to Labour under Blair and voiced support for Brown, despite criticising Brown's ministry for being involved in what he described as "petty squabbles based on personal ambition".[19]

In March 2011, Bannatyne appeared to defect back to the Conservatives when he supported certain measures imposed by Conservative chancellor George Osborne, even though he had mocked the Conservative government a few months earlier.[20]

In April 2015, one week after signing a letter to The Daily Telegraph supporting the Conservatives in the upcoming general election, he reversed his position and pledged his vote to Labour due to Labour leader Ed Miliband's "courage" in promising to scrap non-domiciled tax status.[21]

In June 2016, Bannatyne voted for Brexit in the referendum on that topic.[22]

Personal life

Bannatyne resides in Portugal, where he married Nigora Whitehorn on 3 June 2017.[23] Bannatyne has four children by his first wife, Gail (m. 1983):[24] Hollie, Abigail, Jennifer and Eve; two with his second wife, Joanne (m. 2006): Emily (b. 1999)[25] and Thomas (b. 2002).[26] He has several grandchildren, including Ava and Austin, from his eldest daughter.[27]

Bannatyne was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by Glasgow Caledonian University on 5 July 2006 for services to business and charity. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of business administration from Teesside University, on 6 February 2009.

His 60th birthday was celebrated in London, with celebrities including David Coulthard, James Caan, Theo Paphitis, and Anna Ryder Richardson. A second party was held in the North East of England and was headlined by UK soul singer Beverley Knight and featured Chesney Hawkes, with the festivities occurring in a converted warehouse in Darlington, County Durham.[28][29]

He openly discussed having had cosmetic surgery under his eyes on The Graham Norton Show;[30] had an acting role in the Tyne Tees Television comedy pilot Girl's Club where amongst other actors, he performed alongside the actress Georgia Taylor.[31] In 2011, he stated that he suffers from prosopagnosia, which makes it difficult to recognise familiar faces.[32]


  1. ^ Barber, Lynn (18 February 2007). "Duncan Bannatyne interview". The Observer. London. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
  2. ^ a b Bannatyne, Duncan (3 September 2007). Anyone Can Do It:My Story. Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7528-8189-8.
  3. ^ Direct quote from Bannatyne from Dragon's Den, 14 July 2010. BBC. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "About Duncan". The Bannatyne Group. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Business profile: Duncan is ready for his close-up". The Daily Telegraph. London. 28 November 2004. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
  6. ^ "Driven Restless And A Bit Arrogant But Definitely Not The Retiring Kind". Darlington and Stockton Times. 4 November 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  7. ^ Holland, Tiffany (14 September 2012). "Profile: Michael Fallon, Minister for business". retail-week.com. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Dragon's Den's Duncan Bannatyne opening gym in Northern Ireland". The Belfast Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  9. ^ Coxon, Ian (20 May 2011). "The wealthiest in film and TV". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Second 'I'm A Celeb' Star Donates Appearance Fee To Charity". HuffPost UK. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  11. ^ "BBC One – The Real Marigold Hotel, Series 4 – Duncan Bannatyne". BBC. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Mary's Meals charity 'feeding 500,000 children a day'". BBC News. 5 February 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  13. ^ Mills, David (16 December 2010). "A charitable dragon: Why Duncan Bannatyne is geared for giving". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  14. ^ Mills, David (16 December 2010). "A charitable dragon: Why Duncan Bannatyne is geared for giving". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Smokers can use Facebook to quit". The Daily Telegraph. London. 10 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Programmes | Bannatyne takes on Big Tobacco". BBC News. 27 June 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  17. ^ Salisbury-Jones, Daniel (1 July 2012). "TV Dragon Duncan Bannatyne Plays Blind Football For PC Rathband's Blue Lamp Foundation". Sky UK. Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  18. ^ "Dragon Bannatyne backs Brown". BBC News. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  19. ^ "This Week's Panel, BBC News' Question Time website". BBC News. 6 February 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  20. ^ "Budget 2011: Dragons' Den star backs Osborne". BBC News. 24 March 2011.
  21. ^ Stone, Jon (8 April 2015). "Duncan Bannatyne is voting for Ed Miliband because of his pledge to take on non-dom tax status". The Independent. Retrieved 8 April 2015. Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne has said he will vote Labour because of Ed Miliband's "courage" in pledging to scrap non-domiciled tax status.
  22. ^ "Celebrity Brexit wars: which famous people are for and against leaving the EU?". New Statesman. 23 June 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  23. ^ Robertson, Sarah (4 June 2017). "Former Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne weds Nigora Whitehorn". Metro.
  24. ^ Genes Reunited from UK official records. Retrieved 30 June 2013
  25. ^ Genes Reunited from UK official records. Retrieved 30 June 2013
  26. ^ Genes Reunited from UK official records. Retrieved 30 June 2013
  27. ^ "Duncan Bannatyne: The life of me". London: GoldenMap. 20 August 2011. Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  28. ^ "Bannatyne tells birthday guests: I will never retire". The Northern Echo. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  29. ^ Impact Technical: Case Studies – Duncan Bannatyne's 60th Birthday Celebrations, 7 February 2009 – Darlington Archived 26 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ The Graham Norton Show, 7 May 2009.
  31. ^ Georgia Taylor website: Liz (Georgia) and Julie (Lucy Blackie) pitch their night club idea to Dragon Duncan Bannatyne. (downloadable clip) Archived 2 August 2012 at archive.today. Georgiataylor.co.uk. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  32. ^ Tobin, Lucy (20 June 2011). "Researchers explore problems of 'face blindness'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 July 2012.

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